Money matters:Wall Street’s Crystal Ball Reveals Overcast in 2005 (Part four)
MBMG International Ltd.
Tobias Levkovich, chief investment strategist
S&P 500: 1300;
“We started getting more positive on the market in
September,” as a number of conditions continued to improve, says Mr.
Levkovich. Principally, he says, companies’ huge wads of cash give them
power to “take things into their own hands.” The question is whether
companies will use that cash to hire. “We’re seeing all the right
signals,” says Mr. Levkovich. “But there’s no guarantee. It won’t
be phenomenal. Companies have learned to be more productive with fewer
workers.” Mr. Levkovich recommends investors put 60% of their funds in
equities, 35% in bonds and 5% in cash. He likes farm-related stocks,
consumer staples and biotechnology stocks. Technology stocks may turn
around some time in 2005, he says, but he’s not sure when. The biggest
risk to the economy? Protectionism, he says, which “would cause
MBMG is glad that corporate America is run by
individuals a lot more savvy than Mr. Levkovich – the CEOs aren’t
hiring and won’t be. The biggest risk to the economy in our view is if
anybody takes Mr. Levkovich’s Fantasy Island musings seriously and the
corporates spend all their cash making the bubble bigger for another year.
This would have the effect of proving Abbey Joseph Cohen right about 2005
by deferring all the problems until next year.
Dick Green, Chief Executive
S&P 500: 1275;
10-year yield: 5%
Real GDP: 3.5%
“The stock market outlook for 2005 is good,” writes
Mr. Green. But not great. His S&P forecast is among the lower end of
the 10 market watchers we surveyed. Still, 2005 should be a solid year for
profits, he says. Economic growth should “continue at a fast pace” in
2005, enough to produce 10% earnings growth for the year. The biggest
obstacle to a strong 2005 is a sharp rise in interest rates, he cautions,
so keep your eye on the 10-year note, which remained quiet throughout 2004
even as the fed-funds rate increased by 1.25%.
A Sharp rise in the 10-year note yield could cause the
P/E (price-to-earnings ratio) to contract more than expected if investors
see that as likely to curtail the economy and earnings growth into
2006,” writes Mr. Green. And that might cause a spike in – you guessed
it – inflation.
10% earnings growth? 10% earnings growth? 10% earnings
growth? – MBMG is speechless. HSBC expects that GDP growth currently
running at 4% will average 2% for the year. 4 now, 2 for the year average,
what does that imply by the year end, and what, in turn does that imply
for earnings growth? 10% apparently if you use the special briefing.com
Bank of America Securities
Thomas McManus, chief investment strategist
S&P 500: 1200
Mr. McManus, one of the few 2005 bears surveyed should
get a more sympathetic ride from MBMG. He thinks stocks have gotten too
pricey relative to earnings. That makes them a risky bet heading into a
year that will likely see rising interest rates, he says. Today’s stock
valuations “overlook the significant rise in inflation expectations,”
writes Mr. McManus. However he adds, “Inflation isn’t going to creep
– it’s going to jump right in our faces,” he says, since “we’re
going to see a plethora of rising prices” in the first quarter of the
Investors have become overconfident, says Mr. McManus,
and are ignoring a number of risks. Part of that overconfidence stems from
the fact that P/E ratios, while high by some accounts, are still well off
their historic highs. The operating P/E ratio of the S&P 500 companies
currently is at 21.02, compared with 46.05 in December 2001. But as
inflation ramps up, companies will have trouble maintaining their profit
margin, he says, and that could hurt P/Es.
MBMG thinks that overconfident doesn’t even begin to
cover the kind of thinking already described by some analysts. Mr. McManus
fails to spot, however, that inflation and higher interest rates will both
simply be a spike – the real question being whether or not they peak
before or after the end of 2005.
Phil Roth, chief technical market analyst
S&P 500: “If you put a gun to my head, I’d say it’s down.”
Long-term Treasuries have failed to price in the real
rate of inflation, says Mr. Roth, due to a prevailing view (among the bond
markets BUT not the analysts here) that the U.S. economy has been soft.
“People have constantly distrusted the economic expansion and believed
that there was no inflation,” he says. “But there are strong signs
that inflation is picking up.”
He says that “we’ve almost had a miracle in the
bond market this year” and that “bonds are much more mis-priced than
stocks.” That will be the story for 2005. “Rising long-term interest
rates,” he says, could “choke off the market.”
Want one more reason to be careful this year? It’s
the Year of the Rooster, according to the Chinese calendar. And Mr. Roth
– a technical strategist on Wall Street – says Years of the Rooster
are usually Years of the Bear as well. If Mr. Roth is right, a number of
the strategists we spoke with may have to eat some crow by the end of
MBMG’s head is shaking in disbelief – even the bears are growling
utter nonsense. Inflation is a short term threat. Recessionary
disinflation/deflation now seem utterly unavoidable – the question being
whether they will occur in 2005 or the following year. Still I guess
it’s better to draw the right conclusions from looking at the data
wrongly like Mr. Roth than to draw the wrong conclusions despite having
the facts staring you in the face like the other commentators did.
The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be
reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can
accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor
bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions
taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more
information please contact Graham Macdonald on email@example.com
Snap Shots: Wat to photograph?
by Harry Flashman
Sometimes you can become so used to what is around us,
that you don’t see it any more. Our Wats (temples) are a classic
example. We have seen so many, we don’t see them any more, yet the first
time tourists to Thailand go mad when they see the temples. Hundreds of
rolls of film are shot, because Thailand is actually a photographer’s
paradise. The ambient light levels are strong, shadows are strong and
images are also strong if you use light and shadow to your advantage. The
ideal venue to use all these aspects is in your local Wat.
We all forget that we are living in a country that
other people save up for 11 months just to get here for two or three
So here is how to take that great Wat shot - only it
isn’t one shot. It is impossible to show a Wat with one snap. It
requires a series. One of the reasons for this is the fact that a Wat is a
microcosm of Thai society. People eat there, live there, learn there and
go there after they die. So really you are trying to show not only the
grandeur of the architecture, but the fact that the Wat has its own life
going on within its boundaries. It is the centre of all village life.
Here is how I would approach the subject, and remember
we are looking for production quality shots here. The preparation is to go
there the day before your shooting day to see how the sun shines on the
buildings. To get the textures and colours you need the sun striking the
walls at an angle. Full shade or full sun is not the way. It’s back to
using light and shadow to show form. You will have to note what are the
best times of day to record the various architectural details. Also be
prepared to use a close up shot or two to highlight some of the small
details. By the way, always remember that a Wat is a place of religious
worship and significance, so do take your shoes off and be respectful.
Wats are inhabited by much more than the saffron robed
monks. There are teachers, nuns, novitiates, school children, street
vendors and even tourists. A very mixed bag. Try to take shots to show
just why these people are there in the Wat and its compound. This is where
a “long lens” (135 mm upwards) can be a help. You can get the image
you want without having to intrude into the person’s personal space.
However, remember that if there is any doubt as to whether your subject
would really want that photo taken - then ask permission first. It is my
experience that the vast majority of people will happily respond
positively to your request. Even when there is no common language, a smile
and a wave of the camera in their direction and an “OK?” is generally
all that is necessary.
Taking pictures inside a Wat is not as easy as the
exterior shots. The light levels are very low and there is often the
feeling that you are intruding in someone else’s religious practices.
Taking a flash photograph really is an intrusion in my view. This is where
the tripod is great. Set the camera up on the tripod, compose the shot,
set it on Time Exposure and quietly get that shot of a lifetime. You will
probably need around 5-10 seconds at f5.6, but that is just a guide and
you should experiment. If you set the camera on Auto mode and turn off the
flash you will get better results.
By now you should have taken almost one complete roll of film on your
local Wat. Verticals, horizontals, close-ups and wide angle shots. Do not
be afraid to shoot film. It is the only way to improve and the only way to
get great shots. Film is the cheapest thing in photography, always
remember that. Just avoid taking the ‘same’ shot four times - one
vertical and one horizontal for each subject, but that is all.
Modern Medicine: Is cancer a ‘relative’ risk?
by Dr. Iain Corness, Consultant
We have known for many years that certain
diseases run in families. This includes diabetes and asthma for example. We have
also known that certain types of cancer seem to run in families, with breast
cancer in women being the one that has probably been best documented, with the
gene responsible having been identified.
In an attempt to get further towards the truth, a study was
carried out based in Iceland, where scientists have access to unique family tree
data covering the whole population, and from the 27 types of cancers studied, 16
appeared to show the inheritance factor, with seven of these showing a very
The research was set up to establish how often cancers
occurred in first to fifth degree relatives of about 32,000 cancer patients over
the past 50 years. The 27 cancers studied included many of the most common, such
as lung, breast, prostate, colon and skin.
In addition, the incidence and types of cancers suffered by
the partners of cancer patients were also noted. These cancers included stomach,
lung and colon cancers and were seen more frequently in the partners of
patients, suggesting the involvement of shared lifestyle and environmental
factors, as inheritance was not a factor in this group.
Study leader Kari Stefansson, chief executive of the drug
company deCODE Genetics in Reykjavik, said, “Our findings indicate that
genetic factors contribute to the risk of specific cancers, but also that
certain types of cancer can be looked upon collectively as broad, complex
phenotypes (diseases with distinct characteristics).
“The next step in this work is to isolate the key genes
contributing to the common forms of the disease and to use this information to
develop better medicine. At the same time it is crucial to emphasize that
lifestyle and environmental factors play a very significant role in the
development of cancer and are things we may all be able to do something about
The seven cancers with the highest increased familial
occurrence both in close and distant relatives were breast, prostate, stomach,
lung, colon, kidney and bladder cancers, the researchers reported in the on-line
journal PloS Medicine.
Cancers at certain sites of the body also showed a familial
association with other cancers. For example, relatives of people with stomach,
colon, rectal or womb cancer were more likely to develop any one of these
So that’s the bad news, what’s the good news? Well the
good news is that just because a close relative had cancer does not mean to say
that you will definitely get it too. Remember that what was looked at here, in
the study of 32,000 cancer patients, were relative numbers. The association with
environmental factors also means that there are more factors at work than just
heredity. And environmental factors are usually under your control. These are
factors such as smoking, for example. Yes, another dig at smoking, the most
easily corrected environmental cancer producing factor in the world.
So let’s imagine that a close relative does come up with
one of the seven most reported in families, those of breast, prostate, stomach,
lung, colon, kidney and bladder, what do you do now? Throw in the towel? Write
your will? Spend all your money this evening? Hopefully none of those! There are
screening tests and examinations that can be done to see if you have any of
those conditions. Screening tests, X-Rays, blood tests, stool examinations,
endoscopies and suchlike.
Having cancer is not the end of the world these days, and
just having a relative with cancer is definitely not a death sentence!
Learn to Live to Learn: What George had to say…
with Andrew Watson
Professor George Walker is to the
International Baccalaureate Organisation what Albus Dumbledore is to Hogwarts.
He is the father of the modern IBO, a leader, pioneer and visionary who oozes
wisdom and never fails to inspire. George is tall, angular, silver haired, with
a kindly face, sculpted with care by nature and no doubt benefiting, at least in
part, from the result of healthy living in Geneva. He read Chemistry at Oxford,
Music in Cape Town and has thus lived what might be termed an ‘IB’ life. His
book, ‘To Educate the Nations’ (John Catt International, 2002) lays out his
philosophy in gripping fashion. In Perth, at the IB Asia Pacific Regional
conference, he was worth the entrance money on his own.
He spoke on the conference theme, “Leadership and Learning:
the Role of the IB Coordinator”. Having marked the moveable border between
Leadership and Management, he talked about the role of the IB Coordinator as a
progenitor for change, pioneers in their own right, whose work can often bring
with it considerable personal risk, which arrives in sometimes surprising and at
other times, predictable, forms: “Those of us whose professional job brings
daily confrontation with change are quickly unhinged when it affects other
aspects of our lives that we thought were predictable and stable.”
George is great at placing theory in reality. He truly
understands the daily work of those who work in the name of the IBO. Having
worked at the sharp end in schools of national and international character, he
appears acutely aware of the fault lines and politics of schools and the
soporiphic, claustrophobic conservatism which can lead to stagnation and
regression if the fresh air of new ideas, imagination and creativity are not
allowed to clear the atmosphere.
He has written of the inevitable tension that exists between
Boards and Principals, insisting that this should be seen as a positive dynamic
for change: creative tension, where win-win situations happen. But George is
also aware of the reality of what change means to most people. After all, many
of us, you might agree, spend much of our lives devoted to the pursuit of a
situation in which change does not happen anymore.
Change is unsettling, new ideas can be a threat and the
purveyors of change, even if they have the moral, ethical and even legal high
ground, can be dangerous to all that we have built for ourselves. We don’t
want our feathered nest ruffled. There is, as George rightly said, a “powerful
sense of bereavement about change”.
George contextualizes brilliantly, improvises as any great
orator can, and always provides a literary companion to illustrate his points.
In Singapore, he introduced me to “The Dignity of Difference” by Jonathan
Sacks and in Perth, he reminded us all of the poetry of Matthew Arnold, who
wrote in 1853 (The Scholar Gypsy),
…this strange disease of modern life,
With its sick hurry, its divided aims,
Its heads o’ertaxed, its palsied hearts…
Then, as if to prove he’s still top of the teaching trade,
George adds that it was just six years after this poem that Charles Darwin was
telling the world that the only way to survive is to change. How true that is.
Change or become a fossil.
When I asked George what kind of action the IBO felt able to
take to augment, enhance and support supplement programmes, it was pretty clear
that this had been the subject of previous rumination (nothing seems to come as
a surprise to George).
One of the unwritten rules of the IBO is “think global, act
local” and in aspiring, as the IBO does, to produce individuals who
understand, “that other people, with their differences, can also be right,”
whilst maintaining a possibly contradictory position of being unable or
unwilling to involve themselves in issues ‘on the ground’ in schools, I
suggested that there was a danger of promoting benevolent polyvalence?
The answer to this question is where the ideas of Howard
Gardner’s Good Work project, the IBO and Professor Allan Luke, Dean of the
Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice at the National Institute of
Education in Singapore (of whom I will speak later), converge. In short, they
The tragedy of the tsunami precipitated the already planned
development of ‘IBO Projects’, a new branch of the organisation, which aims
to extend education philosophy into real work, ‘on the ground’. In charge is
Mr Peter Kenny, formerly regional manager for the IBO Primary Years Programme
and as compassionate, generous and marvellous a man as I have ever met.
George explained that reaching out around the local, regional
and global community was very much part of the planned and logical progression
of the IBO and in many ways is a natural extension of the CAS Programme.
In recognising that the responsibility is great indeed, to
remain inclusive and compassionate on the one hand, yet resolute, critical and
firm on the other, CAS provides subtle but critical clues as to what we might
expect from the IBO projects. Many schools make cursory gestures to working in
their local communities but miss the central point entirely, which is that we
should be asking not only, “what is it that we have that we can offer them”
but, “what is it they have that they can offer us?” Asking the
first part of the question only smacks of colonialism, and is only half the
Tim Knight, IB coordinator at the International School,
Manila and a brilliant and brave advocate for all the IBO stands for, summed up
what George Walker’s words meant to the assembled, “When you talk about
positive change and you listen to George, you feel affirmed, invigorated. Je
pense, ainsi, il faut que je fais quelque chose”.
Next week: KIS – A tsunami relief concert reviewed
Heart to Heart with Hillary
I’ve often had the urge to write in. But after reading yet another sad
reader’s submission I really couldn’t resist this time. I’m referring to
“Tired Tim” who wrote for advice about his sulky girlfriend.
Why was she sulky, you ask? Because Tim fancies a drink with the boys a couple
of nights week. He then relates that he gives her 30,000 baht a month. Well as
they say, “every village has one”.
Unless your girlfriend has a masters degree and looks like Miss World I’d
suggest you’re overpaying her. This, not your nights out is to blame. It has
turned her into a spoiled brat who believes you are “stoopid”. My
suggestion to you and all the other poor misguided fools is to send her back to
the bar where she was found. Earning 30,000 baht a month under numerous sweaty
customers is a lot harder. Sorry to say but I am constantly amazed at the
amount of money given to girlfriends. Read the local press and see what the
going rate for monthly employment is. A hard working craftsman would be over
the moon with 8,000. A well educated office worker would be happy with 10,000
so why does an ignorant, sulky, provincial bumpkin need three times that
amount. Get yourself out and about you can find pleasant friendly local girls
who don’t work in bars only too happy to have a Farang boyfriend, and
what’s more, they’ll have a job and wages too. Farang men stop selling
yourselves short and wasting your money. No wonder they think we’re mad!!
Are you a bean counter by profession? Whilst your argument is very well
reasoned and makes sound financial sense, it ignores one very human factor -
emotion. Farang men will always form an attachment somewhere, but not
necessarily in the most honest environments. However, being a ‘girlfriend’
is not a profession, nor should time spent with a partner be considered a
commodity to be traded for a monthly ‘salary’. Love for sale is never
‘love’ and hence the high divorce rates in certain sections of the
community. I agree with you wholeheartedly about the pleasant, friendly local
girls, but the ease of getting to know these paragons of virtue, compared to
the ladies of the night, means that they tend to be overlooked. I still believe
it is up to Tired Tim to work out finances with his lady, rather than you or I
suggesting what the monthly stipend should be. Never-the-less, you do sound
like an honest, thinking man, my Petal. Just up the ante a little bit more and
Hillary could be persuaded to give up tapping away on the keyboard.
My girlfriend speaks quite good English, but I can find it difficult to
understand her true meaning and we end up having an argument. The other day she
seemed worried and said “I want stay by myself” and I thought she wanted to
leave. I asked her why, as everything seemed to be OK before, but she just
started to get mad at me for continuing to ask her what was wrong. The next
day, when she hadn’t left I worked out that what she wanted to say was that
because she was trying to work out a personal problem, she wanted to be
“alone” for a while. I try to understand, but it is a problem. Have you any
advice for this communication problem we are having?
Dear Communications Conrad,
In any relationship, clear and open communication is most important. When the
two people come from different cultures and have different native languages,
then it becomes even more likely that confusion will occur. Your girlfriend is
trying her best to communicate with you in a foreign language, but I note you
do not say whether you can communicate in Thai, her language. If there are
times of confusion, you should just say “mai kowjai” and ask her to put it
another way. Finally, try not to hang on the literal meaning of every word -
try and get the overall meaning or emotion. And get some Thai lessons too!
With all the horrible tales you hear about the foreigners being ripped off by
the girls in Thailand, have you any suggestions about how you tell a “good”
Thai girl from a “bad” Thai girl? There must be some way. Before any more
of us get taken to the cleaners, let us into the secret Hillary. I’m from
London and I thought I was street smart. The motorcycle shops must just love
us, and the gold shops too. Please, before it’s too late!
Take your time. Hasten Jason will only get you in trouble in double quick time.
Have you been hurt already, my Petal? All you have to do is follow the
“rules” that you would in your own country. When looking for a soul mate
would you go to the local bar? Finding “good” girls as you call them is
difficult, but you generally do not find them in bars. They work in offices,
hospitals, shops, optometrists, architects rooms, tourist hotels - are you
listening to me, Jason! Finally, if all else fails, here is Hillary’s tip for
the selection of “good” girls. Check the legs first - good girls wear
pantyhose. There you are, Jason, it’s easy! Happy hunting.
Psychological Perspectives: One more reason to go for that diploma
by Michael Catalanello,
What benefits result from a higher
education? While some seem obvious, there may be a few you never thought
Students often seem attracted by the prospects of a
higher income, more rewarding work, and higher employment associated with
earning a university degree. Educators might emphasize the value of
critical thinking skills gained by graduates, their introduction to the
world of ideas and the merits of preparation for a life of learning.
Societal benefits might include such things as a decreased dependence upon
public assistance, greater civic involvement, increased volunteerism and
better health associated with higher levels of education.
A number of recent studies have demonstrated that a
higher level of education may provide benefits we never anticipated,
namely, protection from a decline in memory and other cognitive abilities
that comes as we grow older. This month researchers at the University of
Toronto published findings that shed light on how higher education helps
protect older people from certain declines in mental abilities.
Melanie Springer and a team of psychologists examined
patterns of brain activity in subjects performing memory tasks. The
procedure involved scanning the brains of participants using functional
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The scans produced pictures that reveal
specific brain areas which become active in response to subjects performing
memory tasks. They then examined the relationship between those brain
regions used, the age of subjects, and their levels of education.
Previous studies had shown that older adults exhibit
greater activity in the frontal regions of the brain as compared to younger
adults. The main finding of this study was that the frontal lobes, the area
of the brain directly behind the forehead, and the medial temporal lobes,
the areas on each side of the brain, exhibited differing patterns of
activity, depending on the age and education of the subjects.
Young adults, ages 18 to 30 with higher education,
seemed inclined to rely more on the temporal lobes and less on the frontal
lobes while performing memory tasks. Older adults, aged 65 and up, used
more frontal lobes and less of their temporal lobes while performing the
same tasks. This increase in frontal lobe activity among older adults was
most pronounced among those that were more highly educated.
The authors suggested that the frontal lobes represent
an available resource that can be called upon to compensate for reduced
functioning of the temporal regions associated with aging. The more
education a person has, the greater this effect.
Neuropsychologists have contributed dramatically to our
understanding of the brain in recent years. They have demonstrated that the
brain is a dynamic system of neurons capable of growing new connections in
response to more complex and stimulating environments. It is speculated
that education, particularly while the brain is maturing before age 30, may
stimulate the formation of more connections between various brain regions.
These additional connections might provide a kind of redundancy which acts
to buffer the decline that comes when connections are inevitably lost due
If you are among those thinking about going back for that university
diploma, there’s one more reason to take the plunge. Better do it soon
though, before you forget!
Dr. Catalanello is a licensed psychologist in his home State of Louisiana, USA, and a member of the Faculty of Liberal Arts at Asian University,
Chonburi. You may address questions and comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post on his weblog at
Sound and Vision
I was accosted on Beach Road last week. This is
not an unusual occurrence and depending upon which side of the street
you are on, you might be invited to indulge in anatomically challenging
activities by a person of an uncertain gender, or encouraged to purchase
a small plastic dog with flashing eyes which goes round and round in
circles making annoying yapping noises until the batteries run out or
you hit it with a hammer (the latter is quicker and more gratifying).
However, in this instance it was a reader of this column who came up to
me and asked: “Justin, you are an internationally recognised figure,
constantly in demand at high society social events and film festivals
and you dedicate so many of your waking hours to informing your adoring
public of the latest audio-visual offerings. What do you do with your
limited free time?” And I had to admit “I play computer games.”
Rome Total War
Rome Total War is a strategy game set in the early days of
the Roman Empire. Controlling one of the Roman factions of the time, your
challenge is to capture the majority of the provinces in the empire; eventually
invading Rome itself and taking over the senate. The main game takes place on a
map of the empire. The cities you control have to be taxed, managed and
developed, armies have to be created and moved to where they are needed. The
map is crawling with diplomats, armies, assassins, spies, outbreaks of the
plague and a variety of other events that need to taken into account and used
to your advantage. The game succeeds in creating a world that is living,
believable and historically consistent.
But the really cool part of the game comes into play when
you go into battle against some foolish enemy who stands in your way (or who
decides to attack you). Then the action switches to an immensely detailed 3D
battlefield where literally thousands of troops (and war dogs, elephants and
even flaming pigs) meet in massive battles. You command your troops and can
skim across the battlefield to watch the resulting action, either in close up,
or zooming out for an overview of the battlefield. It’s stirring stuff with
fantastic graphics and sound effects, with troops responding realistically to
their situation including running away when their morale dips too low; cowards!
Attacking a city requires battering rams and siege towers and you can also
develop a variety of catapults and other ballistic weapons.
There is considerable depth to the game; but you do not need
to know everything to play successfully. The 80 page manual is useful, but if
you have the Thai version and cannot read Thai; then there is on-line help that
pops up as you play, plus a huge and helpful net community.
As a good game should, Rome Total War pulls you into its
world and you will find yourself totally absorbed in the development of your
faction; often until the early hours of the morning. Be prepared to give up
your free time for the many hours (days/weeks/months) it will take to complete
the campaign. However, if you feel the urge to strut around your living room in
a toga, then you have probably gone too far and should seek medical assistance!
The Ring 2
Japan has developed an international reputation for quality
horror movies and Ringu, directed by Hideo Nakata in 1998, is a fine example of
the genre. The film was picked up by Hollywood and re-made in an American
setting as “The Ring” with an international cast and directed by Gore
Having made Ringu 2 in Japan, Nakata was invited to direct
The Ring 2 for Hollywood. Again set in America and again with Naomi Watts in
the lead role, The Ring 2 takes the story in a different direction from the
Japanese sequel, but the underlying theme is the same; watch a certain
videotape and you will die in seven days. The deadly video is not, as you might
expect, “The Princess Diaries”; but a bizarre set of images featuring an
undead young girl called Samara with too much hair, who crawls out of TV sets,
makes a mess on the carpet and kills people.
Watching a horror movie with Miss Julie is a tiring
experience. As the music implies that something unpleasant is about to happen,
she takes refuge behind her jacket. Then with one eye keeping watch, she
heralds the scary moment with a loud squeak and disappears completely inside
her clothing until the music has returned to “there is nothing bad happening
now” status. With her performance taking place on one side of me; and a
gentleman snoring loudly on the other (we went to the late show), it was hard
to take a view on the actual movie. However, ignoring the plot which I will
kindly describe as weak, there are plenty of menacing set pieces, with Nakata
using music, sound and camera angles to create a sense of dread and some good
scary moments. If you enjoyed “The Ring” then you will enjoy this sequel.
Hideo Nakata has now been signed up to direct a remake of
“The Eye”, the Thailand produced movie by the Pang brothers from Hong Kong.
Miss Julie has ordered a larger jacket in anticipation.
After mainstream success with movies such as Traffic and
Ocean’s Eleven, Steven Soderbergh assembled some of his famous friends
(including Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt), borrowed a home movie camera, and
returned to his indie roots with Full Frontal. The plot involves a movie within
a movie within the movie and a cast of character that are linked to the movies
and to each other; although it is not initially obvious how. I was initially
confused, confusion gave way to boredom; followed by disgust that I’d wasted
79 baht on this self-indulgent piece of junk.
One positive point, the movie lasts a less than average
ninety minutes. Miss Julie lasted for thirty minutes before wandering off to
forage for food, muttering something that I can best translate as
“pretentious bollocks.” A perfect summary!
Bjorn, the fruit of my overactive loins, has a fine taste
in music and a random sense of timing. So the arrival of his Xmas present (for
2004) last week was right on schedule; and included a musical gem.
The Go! Team – Thunder,
Mix together what sounds like 70s TV theme tunes, crazy
Japanese schoolgirls, harmonicas, more percussion than is strictly necessary
and any other instruments that come to hand, and you have the Thunder,
Lightning, Strike. It’s a unique, fun sound that just makes you feel good.
Play it loud and smile.
Bjorn advised me that it sounds like it was recorded through
a sock, but in a good way! By this I think he meant that the lo-fi sound (the
recording venue is stated as being “in Jan and Ed’s basement”) is more
than compensated for by the energy and enthusiasm that jumps out of every
track. Bjorn has heard them playing live which he reports as being like
listening to the album; but without the sock
The Go! Team has a growing cult following, but probably not
yet big enough to find the album for sale locally. If you want a taster, some
of their songs can be downloaded from their web site at
http://www.thegoteam.co.uk and the album can be bought from the usual web
Thank you Bjorn for the gift; more than compensates for the battery
operated, flashing eyed plastic dog I sent you for Xmas, and I will get you
that hammer you requested for your birthday.