December in Bangkok, Part III

Between Part II and Part IV

December 16-25, 2003

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

On Sunday I forgot to include my favorite cartoon: Bizarro. Here it is.

"Only mildly funny, Alf."

And, on Monday I forgot to include a shot of The Peninsula taken during the day.

"How boring!"

OK, how about this: Today I was truly horrified to see on that some could-be clone of myself was about to plead guilty to 40 murders. Twenty years ago my passport photo was identical to the face you see below.

Former nurse charged with murder in deaths of hospital patients

Man says he killed 30-40 patients

"Alf, did you ever consider that you might be his father ... the result of some college one-night-stand many many years ago?"

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Yesterday I paid a personal visit to Mr. Ben's 'new' law office (the one over at "Soi Zero") and spoke with his Thai office manager. I pretended that I wanted to extend my visa and asked for help. To my amazement the man said I could save myself a load of money and time by just going over to the Thai Immigration office on Soi Suan Plu and doing it myself. What American lawyer would do this?

Anyway, this new office (he has 5 of them now) has the interior dimensions of a toilet stall ... it's about the size of a double wide phone booth. That is the truth! There is room for one chair (his) a tiny shelf-desk and some cluttered bookcases. There is also a tiny fan as the place will not support even the smallest of air conditioners. Apparently when he sees clients he just opens the door and talks to them while they stand outside.

Earlier readers will have noted that Mr. Ben offers a bewildering array of legal, quasi-legal and 'astro-legal' services ... along with the more mundane client needs: detective work, notary stamps, translations, immigration help, marriage registrations. Oh, and home visits are available.

All of this activity apparently falls under his corporate umbrella, the awkwardly titled: "WORLD'S Institute of Advanced Language Teaching & Legalizing Translation Academy". Mr. Ben is the "Founder / President / Chief Executive Lawyer".

Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge

PS: Four of the Fitness Club staff asked to use this PS to send a wave to far away Ning ... Ning is now somewhere on the high seas aboard the Good Ship Imagination.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

As you can see from this panorama taken from the west side of the Chao Phraya River ... at the base of the Taksin bridge ... all the concrete work has been completed for the first (cross river) extension of the Silom section of the Skytrain. The laying of the rails has yet to begin.

PS: My Bangkok minder writes:

As the time for celebrating the New Year approaches, American citizens should be aware that fireworks displays require a city permit and local police approval. While many types of fireworks are readily available in Thailand, most are illegal, and their use presents obvious fire and safety hazards. Additionally, setting off fireworks from apartment balconies, terraces, or building rooftops is not permitted.

Parents are reminded to exercise caution with children when celebrating with sparklers or similar fireworks. To enjoy fireworks safely, it is recommended that you view one of the many sanctioned public displays held in Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand.

U.S. Embassy Bangkok American Citizen Services Unit:
Window Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 - 11 AM and 1 - 3 PM
Tel: +66-2-205-4049 Fax: +66-2-205-4103
U.S. Department of State travel website:
U.S. Embassy Bangkok website:

Friday, December 19, 2003 (pre-journal)

A very slow news day for the great Thai dailies:

1) Woman points her finger at men who snatched her purse.

2) Canoes burn in accidental brush fire started by cigarette.

3) Brothel girls upset over the government's proposed early closing hours.

Friday, December 19, 2003

This evening I made another pass by Mr. Ben's law office on 'Soi Zero'. It was dark ... no one was there; but what did I expect on a Friday night!

The other day I said that the inside of the place was about the size of a toilet stall or a double sized phone booth. I was mistaken. It is smaller. Tonight I ppressed up against the glass door for a more leisurely sweep ... and my best guess is that the whole office is less than a meter deep and maybe half again as long.

I put my lens right up against the front pane and shot. What the camera captured is about 60% of Mr. Ben's 'suite'.

As you can see, the man also needs a file clerk.

December 20, 2003 (pre-journal)

This is an excellent reason for not owning a car in Bangkok ... the traffic on the road versus the Sky Train. But, we are about to buy another car ... go figure.

Tonight Watcharee, I and Pom plus three of the Screwless Tuskers are going to the Thai restaurant in the Shangri La Hotel for dinner. Check back, dear reader, to see how it went.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

The Screwless Tuskers had a rendezvous of sorts this evening ... it was very impromptu. This is the first time that 'all' of us had been together since Hua Hin in September. The only missing member of the team was Beige, who was unable to join us. The three players who showed up were Golf, Tak and Army.

Anyway, we went for dinner at the Thai restaurant (Salathip) in the hotel that is our most immediate neighbor: The Shangri-La.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Another advantage of living in Thailand is that I only have to glance at a 'billboard' to find out everything I ever wanted to know (or, not know) about an elephant's anatomy.

Monday, December 22, 2003 (pre-journal)

One Christmas card is from Colin and one is from Chris? Can you tell which? Do you care?

Monday, December 22, 2003

On the Sky Train ... on my way back from Mr. Ben's law office (*) ... my entire car was serenaded by a group of Thai Christmas carolers. They are Christians, and aside from bringing good vocal cheer to one and all, they are spreading the word of God, "as they understand him".

(*) Near "Soi Zero".

"What is this all about, Alf?"

PS: It's funny how superstitions can start snapping at each other during the 'holidays'.

The New York Times writes:

Again, Jews Fault Mormons Over Posthumous Baptisms
Published: December 21, 2003

A Jewish group says it is considering legal action in an effort to stop the Mormon Church from posthumously baptizing many Jews, especially Holocaust victims.

Under the practice, known by Mormons as vicarious baptism a significant rite of the church the dead are baptized by living church members who stand in as proxies.

But in 1995, after evidence emerged that at least 380,000 names of Jewish Holocaust victims were on baptismal lists in the church's extensive archives in Salt Lake City, the church agreed to end vicarious baptism without consent from the descendants of the dead. Church officials also said the church would remove the names of Holocaust victims placed on the lists before 1995.

"For the last seven years, we've had entirely cordial relations with the Mormons," said Ernest Michel, who negotiated the agreement on behalf of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, which is based in New York and claims 180,000 members. "But the agreement is clear and they have not held up their end."

Last year, Helen Radkey, an independent researcher in Salt Lake City, gave Mr. Michel evidence that the Mormon lists still included the names of at least 20,000 Jews, many of them Holocaust victims and prominent figures like the philosopher Theodor Herzl and David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel. Ms. Radkey also provided Mr. Michel with evidence that many of these Jews had been baptized after the 1995 agreement.

But Mormon officials say they remain in full compliance with the 1995 agreement.

"We have actually gone above and beyond," said D. Todd Christofferson, a church official involved with the negotiations. The church removed the names of Holocaust victims listed before 1995 and continues to instruct its members to avoid baptizing Jews who are not directly related to living Mormons or whose immediate family has not given written consent, Mr. Christofferson said.

But he said it was not the church's responsibility to monitor the archives to ensure that no new Jewish names appear. "We never had in mind that we would, on a continual basis, go in and ferret out the Jewish names," Mr. Christofferson said, adding that the labor involved in constantly sifting through an ever-expanding archive, which contains more than 400 million names, would represent an "intolerable burden."

"When the church is made aware of documented concerns, action is taken in compliance with the agreement," he said.

Some Jewish genealogists agree with the Mormon interpretation of the agreement. "I have a copy of the agreement," said Gary Mokotoff, the publisher of Avotaynu, the International Review of Jewish Genealogy. "The wording is vague in some places, but it definitely does not obligate the Mormons to scour their own archives on an ongoing basis."

But Mr. Michel, who said he became involved in the issue after reading about posthumous baptisms in the Jewish newspaper The Forward, contends that the agreement obliges the Mormon Church to monitor the post-1995 lists and remove the names of Jews that appear.

"They put the names in there, they should have to take them out, and the agreement says as much," he said. "Why should we have to do their job for them?" He said the group was considering legal action but would not provide details.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom Mr. Michel contacted, said she planned to take up the matter with Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, a Republican and a Mormon. "Senator Hatch was immensely helpful in brokering the 1995 agreement, so we're hoping he can get involved again now," she said in a telephone interview.

With approximately 11 million members worldwide, the Mormon Church, known formally as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is one of the fastest-growing in the world, partly because of a strong missionary effort. The importance of the family structure is central to church doctrine and is a reason for the extensive archives kept by the International Genealogical Index in Salt Lake City. The archives include detailed biographical information of 400 million people going back centuries. The names of those to be posthumously baptized are drawn from the archives.

According to Mormon theology, all people, living or dead, possess "free agency," and posthumous baptisms provide only an option, not an obligation, to join the religion in the afterlife. Church membership numbers do not include those baptized after death, Mr. Christofferson said.

Originally, the practice was reserved for ancestors of church members, but over the years many other people have been baptized posthumously. "There is no way to prevent overzealous members doing mission work from submitting names that don't belong," Mr. Christofferson said.

Ms. Radkey, an Australian-born Christian, said she began researching the Mormon practice in 1999 after discovering that the teenage diarist Anne Frank had been posthumously baptized.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

How does Bangkok Power & Light or Thai Telephone keep track of all their wires ... or do they even bother? Maybe they just add new lines when needed and they don't worry about the 'empties'.

This is our local ferry to the other side of the river ... 2 bahts each way (about a US Nickel). Today we were on it at an off-peak hour ... but, the fare is always the same. It's convenient and it is right next to our apartment (and the dock to The Peninsula).

Wednesday, December 24, 2003 (Christmas Eve)

Tonight we are going to 'celebrate' Christmas Eve at The Oriental Hotel. Joining us will be Alex and Golf (they have not yet met).

Looking across the river from The Peninsula side you can see that preparations are still unfolding at The Oriental. On The Peninsula side it looks like most of the unfolding is complete.

Readers from last year may remember that in 2002 we passed the Eve at The Pen. We did the same for New Year's Eve. 2003 will find us at The Oriental for both nights.

Thursday, December 25, 2003 (pre journal)

Watcharee and Golf are ready to leave for The Oriental for dinner.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Last night Watcharee & I and Golf and Alex had Christmas Eve dinner at The Oriental.

PS: Watcharee's friend, Oh, still works at the Bamboo Bar in The Oriental.

PPS: Mass at the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church on Ruam Rudee (at Soi 5) in Bangkok.

Next: Part IV

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