Bangkok When the Leaves Turn, Part V

Between Part IV and Part VI

October 20-25, 2001

Saturday, October 20, 2001 (Probable Ascension of Zenobius in 417AD)1


Several days ago I reported on the rescue and friendly confinement of a baby turtle over at the terrace of the Sala Rim Naam. Though the beast has not grown appreciably since his discovery he has become much more aggressive.

Do you remember Doctor Wisuth and his missing wife, Phassaporn Boonkasemsanti? The "BODY IN TANK CASE"? It must have looked like this ...Sure you do! You must! She was the one who went missing on February 20th right after sharing a sushi lunch with her husband. And, not too much later, irregularly diced chunks of flesh thought to once be part of her were found in two septic tanks: one serving Chulalongkorn University's Witthayaniwet building ... the other handling flushables from the Sofitel Central Plaza Hotel. Speculation, at the time, suggested that clogged plumbing in the first venue required the doctor to move what was left of her remains to another building for the balance of the disposal process.

Anyway, after months of investigation, the public prosecutor rejected the police case against Dr. Wisuth, citing lack of eye-witness evidence. This prompted the victim's father to file a private lawsuit charging Dr. Wisuth with premeditated murder, intimidation, illegal detention and covering up a murder. Stay tuned for further developments.

This morning's papers are unusually awash with the baying of Muslims, Jews, Christians and other superstitious groups. Adult-like in size, it's frightening to see how they behave ... prostrating themselves at compass points ... wailing at walls ... eating the faux meat of their lord ... mortifying their flesh ... howling at the sky. And, all of them hating each other so very much and yet sucking up to something that doesn't even exist.3


"Any more Mambo 'girls'?"


1 "A Florentine, Bishop of Florence, who traced his descent from Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra. He brought a number of people to life: a muleteer who was bringing him a gift of relics from his friend, St. Ambrose, and who fell off a cliff; a French boy traveling in Italy with his mother; a little child trampled by oxen." – Wescott.

2 Last year ... or the year before (perhaps even earlier) ... these pages speculated on why Sarah Ann was worthy of NEWNESIAN inclusion. Aside from the date of her death (on this date) in 1867, her birth in 1785 and her invention of the Tonic Sol-fa system "about 1845" we know very little more about her. NEWNES does tell us the expected: that she was English. As to exactly what was the Tonic Sol-fa system we know nothing.

3 The God of the Arapeisch people of Papua New Guinea is a bloated, wet and warty toad ... a divinity that sits on a lily pad and throws its worshipers suctioned licks from its sticky tongue. Their reptilian God is as believable (and as lovable) as anything you'll find in the loathsome medieval penal codes (Bible, Koran, etc.) of the superstitious fools that poison today's headlines!

Sunday, October 21, 2001

Yesterday NEWNES reminded us: "1867 – Sarah Ann Glover, inventor of the Tonic Sol-fa system, died." Understandably, most of us thought the Tonic Sol-fa system had something to do with either a medicinal cure favored by Victorian ladies or a clever method of dispensing carbonated beverages. Not so! Rather, it has everything to do with music; in this footnote Paul tells all.1

NEWNES for today: reports that New York 'drug' dealers are amazed at the sudden increased demand for all sorts of mind numbing, eye blinding, and reality distorting drugs. Since September 11th there has been a 50 to 60 percent surge in the use of almost anything that will allow people to hide in a fantasy world.2

At Mambo the show goes on ...

1 John Curwen (1816-1880): British music educationist and founder of the tonic sol-fa system of musical notation, which concentrates the student's attention on the relating of sounds to notation in a systematic way.

The son of a Congregational minister, he was himself a minister from 1838 until 1864, when he began to devote himself to propagating his new method of musical nomenclature. John CurwenCurwen adapted his system from that of Sarah Ann Glover (1786–1867), whose Manual of the Norwich Sol-fa System (1845) used the syllables of the system of notation of Guido of Arezzo, and he also adapted from the system of Aimé Paris (1798–1866) terms for the notation of rhythm. Curwen's method of teaching was founded on the attraction of notes to the tonic and, in modulation, to the principle of a shifting tonic ("the movable do").

In 1853 he founded the Tonic Sol-fa Association (later the English Schools Music Association), and from then on his method was widely adopted in schools and choral societies. In 1863 he established a publishing house for music (Curwen & Sons, Ltd.) and three years later became lecturer at Anderson's College, Glasgow.

In 1879 the Tonic Sol-fa College (later the Curwen Memorial College) was opened. His son, John Spencer Curwen (1847–1916), succeeded him as director of the publishing firm and founded in England the competition festival movement for amateur musicians. His system, or variants of it, has remained continuously in use in music schools of Europe and the United States.

2 NEW YORK (CNN) -- Like virtually every other retailer, booksellers have seen their business change dramatically since September 11. Americans did not shop for several days after the terrorist attacks. And since they've returned, their interest has turned to serious subjects.

When times are bad, Bible sales are good. But even at one Christian bookstore, a landmark in New York since 1883, there is no comparison to September 11 and its aftermath.

"When you look at the Gulf War, or even the previous recessions, we saw increases in our Bible sales of 10 and 20 percent, but this time we are seeing increases of 50 to 60 percent. So it is just a dramatic difference from anything we have experienced before," said Gary Gin, general manager of Christian Publications.

Monday, October 22, 2001

"At four in the morning on October 13th, thousands of ready-meals packed in yellow plastic wrappers were sprinkled over flat, parched land close to Khoja Bahoudin in north-eastern Afghanistan. ... Snipping open the packs, people discarded what they did not like. While some collected sackfuls of Pop Tart Toaster-Pastries or Herb Rice, packets of strawberry jam lay strewn across the blistering landscape."1 Where's the peanut butter?
Oh no, not strawberry jam again

Annie2 is back in Seattle.

Obviously, God peeked into the future to steal this little up-the-sleeve trick from "The Great Blackstone". Without some smoke-and-mirrors Donatus might have spent his entire life on dusty trails to nowhere.

Donatus of Fiesole

A Scottish or Irish pilgrim, made Bishop of Fiesole by one of those miraculous elections: the candles catching fire, the bells ringing of their own accord, the mob awe-stricken. He was a poet, and gave his people grammar-lessons and also taught them how to write verse.


Both The Oriental and the Peninsula offer spectacular buffets every evening. However, The Oriental, with its better location always seems to attract more diners. Each restaurant has its individual strengths: The Oriental's sushi has no equal; the Pen's salad variety is tops. I love both places.

1 The Economist (October 20th – 26th 2001), Page 18, "Pop Tarts in the Dust". Less choosy Muslims in London have to 'make-do' in parking places.

2 She hates it when I take her picture.

Tuesday, October 23, 2001


Wescott's 'thoughts':


Father of the 'Virgin'. A deeply troubled cobbler who allowed his work related problems to spill over into his family life. Vexed at his miserable dead-end job, his wife and child were made to suffer terribly by his strange and unpredictable verbal lashings. Both withdrew into their own fantasy worlds: his wife to smoke from the hemp plant, his daughter to long gazes into thin air.

One of Bangkok's largest department stores, Robinson's, is currently undergoing extensive renovation. Underused floor acreage has been temporarily turned over to model racecar hobbyists. These little machines reach incredible speeds,1 providing great amusement not only for their young owners but, as well, for geezers who have nothing better to do with their time.

[from the International Herald Tribune]
1901: Dark Future

PHILADELPHIA – [Says a 'Press' Editorial:] Afghanistan is a country whose internal tranquility and whose relations to great neighboring Powers depend upon the vigorous personality of the ruler. The death of the strong-minded Abdurrahman may be followed by events of grave significance.

1926: Duel Before Tea

ROME – "Dueling in Europe has become less dangerous than aeroplane and automobile riding, and can no longer be taken seriously," according to the 'Corriere d'Italia.' "Once duels were really 'affaires d'honneur,' and were fought to vindicate insults against country and honor," the newspaper said. "Today, one is challenged to fight a duel for putting suggestive political color in the cover of a magazine or for uttering some slightly unconventional remark. Duel fighting is a good afternoon pastime before tea. It is stylish to be present at duels, the etiquette is quite choice. Besides it is an excellent form of publicity for the duelist."

1951: Voltaire's Brain

PARIS – Once upon a time you could have bought through an auction a circus, a farmyard full of animals, an ancient tower, a petrified body – or the brain of Voltaire. Voltaire's brain was probably sold in an auction, according to Edouard Giard, honorary president of the French Auctioneers' Association. The records show that following a dispute between the heirs of Voltaire and the government as to the disposition of his heart and brain, the brain was included in the sale of furniture and never traced. The heart of Voltaire was given to the Bibliotheque Nationale.

1 'Scaled' speeds are measured in the hundreds of kilometers per hour.

Wednesday, October 24, 2001 (Feast of Saint Raphael the Archangel)



The Archangel Raphael

Raphael, or 'the God-healed,' is the archangel in charge of travelers, and of the young and innocent. The best story of his presence on earth is that in the Apocrypha: of his helping the young Jew Tobias to collect a loan for his old father and then to pacify the dubious nature of a young woman who had already killed off seven husbands, so that Tobias might safely become the eighth.

Yesterday was Chulalongkorn Day. King Chulalongkorn the Beloved reigned in Siam from 1868 to 1910. Somsri (Susie) Hansirisawasdi, Director of Public Relations for The Oriental, provided this passage, taken from The Oriental Album:

King Chulalongkorn"Our most illustrious guest did not stay overnight at the hotel. His Majesty King Chulalongkorn paid us a private visit on a fine cool evening in December. The 17th of December it was, in 1890. He arrived at a quarter past six, without fanfare – he preferred it that way, was greeted by H.N. Andersen, whom he knew very well, and a rather nervous Mr. Allen the manager, and requested to be shown over the building he had heard so much about these past few years. He chatted easily with his guides and Mr. Allen soon regained his aplomb and silently congratulated himself that the rooms were looking spotless and the lawn well-trimmed, and that the bar was not excessively lively as it sometimes could be. After visiting The Oriental, His Majesty went on to the Customs House nearby. A plan to extend its wharves and warehouses were being formulated and he wished to obtain first-hand information regarding its existing facilities, hence the inspection tour. The Oriental felt highly honored that it too, had been given the same close scrutiny by the people's hardworking and beloved sovereign."

In observance of the Day dozens of boats paraded past The Oriental and the Customs House (now a run-down fire station3).

Bangkok's Puntip Plaza has it all and now4! Every conceivable version of Microsoft's Windows XP operating system ... standard, professional, small business, Thai language ... is on sale for 110 baht (about $2.50) each. Frankly, I don't know if they will work as intended. Microsoft claims that the 'security' layers built into its new operating system are so inclusive and powerful that the use of any pirated version will crash the encumbered machine and its feckless user to bits.

1 A few years ago when Linda Santarelli and I were here at The Oriental ... [she was poking around in the closet trying to find just the 'right' bathing suit] ... I mentioned that 'today' was this particular anniversary. She was totally nonplussed. Now I know why.

2 His 'thoughts': The branches of the Virgin's family tree grow, if at all, in a murky ether; some say there are no limbs at all ... that she was just a one-time 'mule', simply made-up for the birthing. Anything more and there would have been the real (and dangerously distracting) possibility ... somewhere down the road ... of clumsy kin raising-their-hands-and-waving-their-arms-and-drawing-attention-to-themselves. This is probably true. But, there were 'friends' ... at least people who knew her and saw her from afar. Wescott 'thinks' one of these might have been:


A natural extrovert from a one-parent home. Trying always to be the best to everyone, she fabricated wonderful tales through which she thought all would love her. The truth was of no concern to her; for her, truth was what she said. Her very best friend, Mary (also the child of a dysfunctional family, of course) believed everything Cecilia told her. And, because of this, so many terrible things happened.

3 Back on April 28, the Bangkok Post ran a long piece detailing the sad story of the old Customs House.

4 But, not what I went there for: a simple battery powered booster for my Walkman.

Thursday, October 25, 2001

"The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth ... and All the News that's Fit to Print"

"GM May Decide This Weekend on Sale of Hughes Electronics" – Asian Wall Street Journal, Thursday, October 25, 2001, Page M1.

"Thailand Seeks to Register Certification Mark for Rice" – The Bangkok Post, Thursday, October 25, 2001, Page 1.

"Sears to Cut 4,900 Jobs" – The International Herald Tribune, Thursday, October 25, 2001, Page 13.

– The Bangkok Daily News, Thursday, October 25, 2544, Page 9.

Next: Part VI

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