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Heart to Heart with Hillary
Let’s go to the movies
MBMG International Ltd.
Nominated for the Lorenzo Natali Prize
Is there a solution?
An interesting question arose from a discussion I was having
last week after the recent employment figures came out. I was asked, “How much
of all this money being paid out to save the economy is actually going to
companies that employ people and keep men and women off the dole?” I did not
know the answer to this and so did some research and, via that wonderful
newspaper the Financial Times (FT), found out the horrifying statistic that over
seventy percent of what the UK government has given out is to banks so they can
spend it on property lending. Now forgive me but wasn’t it property lending that
got us into this mess?
It is obvious that the bankers (spelled with a ‘w’?) are just looking after
themselves as can be seen by the outrageous bonuses many have just given
themselves. Even though they have been given all this money to get the country
back on its feet they are not sending the money where it needs to go. Most
bankers would not know a real company if it hit them in the face. As was pointed
out in the FT, when Japanese bankers were given direct instructions by the
central government to lend to Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) they gave these
loans to the likes of a subsidiary of Toyota or Mitsubishi. This is not exactly
what the Japanese government actually meant.
The world of banking is under the illusion that the worst is over. Some banking
stocks have risen dramatically over the last six months. What many people seem
to have forgotten is that is very difficult, even for bankers, to lose money
when it has basically been given to them for nothing. They are keeping the money
given to them to make their own figures look good at the expense of those SMEs,
etc., that really do need a cash injection so as to kick-start their own
businesses and get cash flow turning again.
Those who have shares in banks are either having a ‘senior’ moment or are
blissfully unaware that trading profits are extremely cyclical even when the
books have been fudged - and I am being polite here. ‘Cooked’ is another word
that springs to mind. Let’s face it, the banks can revalue any property on their
books at whatever price they like. This is why Goldman Sachs turned round such
fantastic (in the true sense of the word, i.e. unbelievable) figures for the
first half of the year. If it was not for this fact then almost all the banks
would still be reporting huge losses due to the downward spiraling loan books.
Is the worst over for them? Not by a long way. The property market has to
recover first and that is not going to happen for a long time.
The Deutsche Bank recently did some research on the American property market and
found that it is expected the percentage of house owners who have negative
equity will go up to almost fifty percent by 2011. Earlier this year this figure
stood at 26%.
The report goes on to say Deutsche Bank will “predict the next phase of the
housing decline will have a far greater impact on prime borrowers.” Now this is
interesting and worrying at the same time as prime borrowers account for two out
of every three loans in the mortgage market. The report forecasts that over
forty percent of the loans will be beyond help within the next two years. This
figure now stands at fourteen percent. The vital fact here is that they also
believe there will be another drop in American real estate prices by as much as
Julian Robertson in a recent interview in Value Investor Insight came out with a
very incisive comment when he said, “I ask anyone to give me an example of an
economy beefed up by huge amounts of quantitative easing that did not inflate
tremendously when or if the economy improved. I think what we’re doing now will
either fail, or it will result in unbelievably high inflation - and tragically,
maybe both. That would mean a depression and explosive inflation, which is
So, the banks are throwing money at the property market when it looks to be
still going down. Oh joy! Is there any hope? That is the USD64,000 question.
Whilst it is comparatively easy to see where the problems lie - well it is if
you are not a banker - and suggesting solutions is not exactly difficult, it is
a completely different ball game when it comes to putting these ‘cures’ into
Unfortunately, too many times, governments turn to think-tanks who have never
seen the light of day or reality when it comes to common sense, practical
business. These people have never been at the coal face when it comes to running
a company. The pompous, grandiose statements of these theoreticians and
politicians do not exactly reflect what is going on in the real world. With one
or two honourable exceptions, most of these people have gone straight from
school and university to lecturing in tertiary education or parliament. They
have never had to deal with the hard reality of life itself.
The hard facts are that the markets are not going to look this healthy for a
long time. We need to invest in companies that produce something - apart from
cooked books. The basics are that the Dow Jones, the S&P, the FTSE, etc., are
not the economy, although some in the financial sector may disagree with this
comment. However, they do reflect how people feel. As markets go up then
people’s humour does as well. When they go down then so does the humour.
The theoreticians, politicians and finance people would have us believe their
solutions have saved the day. This is no more than egotistical, self-serving BS.
The world is still in an economic crisis. Just because the world’s stock markets
have shot up a bit does not mean we are in the midst of a recovery.
If we have to use theories then this is no more than a Fibonacci retracement
where things look to be getting better before diving back to a lower position
than they were before. Using this model, there is a good argument to be had for
showing the Dow Jones could go as low as 5,000 before bottoming out completely.
The words of Julian Robertson are frightening in the fact that they are probably
right. Unless we get someone in power that actually knows what they are doing
then we are all going to suffer. And that is the only solution.
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
Snap Shots: by Harry Flashman
Slow-w-w shutter speeds
With modern cameras being so sophisticated these days, I cannot blame
the weekend photographer for just leaving his camera setting on A for
Auto, or P for Program. For the majority of conditions you will get a
satisfactory image with the auto setting. But note, I say
“satisfactory”, not “great”.
If you will be so bold as to take it off A for Auto and select S for
Shutter, you will be expanding the range of shots you can take, and get
some very pleasing results. This week I’d like to look at slow shutter
On almost every camera ever made there is a setting called “15” which
stands for 1/15th of a second. This is probably the most underused
shutter speed ever, and yet it can help make your photographs very much
There seems to be an idea in the photographic world that anything slower
than 1/60th of a second cannot be hand-held, and you must use a tripod.
This is tripe - unless you have some medical condition resulting in
uncontrolled shaking spasms. Of course, this is made even easier with
many modern digitals featuring image stabilization in the circuitry.
The reason to use 1/15th is to expand the light range in which you can
take shots without flash, such as sunsets for example, or to bring out
the background, even when using flash. You know the shots taken at a
function where you get someone looking like a startled rabbit in
blackness, where if you had used a 1/15th shutter speed you would have
got a nice mellow background to soften the picture.
Of course there are a few tricks to hand-holding at the slower shutter
speeds. The first is to steady yourself and that can be done easily by
leaning against a wall or a pole (preferably not a chrome one attached
to a go-go dancer). The second is to hold the camera firmly in both
hands, take a breath in and hold it and then gently depress the shutter
button. I have even shot at ½ a second by holding the camera firmly
pressed down on the back of a chair. Take a few as some will have
obvious camera shake, but you will get at least one good one.
With the slower shutter speed, you can decrease the diameter of the
aperture (the f stop) which will give you greater depth of field than
you would get at 1/60th shutter speed. Remember, as the aperture (the
hole the light goes through) becomes smaller, it is denoted by larger f
If you really want to get technical, for example, f16 means that the
aperture diameter is equal to the focal length of the lens divided by
sixteen; that is, if the camera has an 80 mm lens, all the light that
reaches the sensors passes through a virtual disk known as the ‘entrance
pupil’ that is 5 mm (80 mm/16) in diameter. The location of this virtual
disk inside the lens depends on the optical design. It may simply be the
opening of the aperture stop, or may be a magnified image of the
aperture stop, formed by elements within the lens.
The f stop scale is a sliding one, just as the shutter speed is a
graduated one, allowing for fractional differences in the light allowed
through to the film (or the digital sensors). As you go through the
usual f stops of f 8 to f 11 to f 16, you are actually cutting the light
down by one half each time. The f stop scale is also an inverse ration,
as the bigger the number, the smaller the diameter. There is a good
mathematical reason for this, but just believe me.
On modern cameras, especially when aperture is set on the camera body,
f-number is often divided more finely than steps of one stop or half a
stop. Steps of one-third stop (1/3 EV) are the most common, since this
matches the ISO system of 100 ASA, 200 ASA 400 ASA etc. Enough technical
details! Time to just believe me again.
by Dr. Iain Corness, Consultant
Can Cholesterol cause heart disease?
Can Cholesterol (I give it a capital letter because it is
important) cause heart disease? Simple answer - by blocking up the coronary
arteries Cholesterol then becomes a pre-cursor of heart disease. Cholesterol
causes plaques to form on the inside of the arteries which slows and
eventually stops the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart muscle. However,
sometimes I find it amazing that there are still folk out there who are not
convinced that diet and Cholesterol are the key factors in heart disease.
However, I should not be too hard on these people, after all, it took the
medical world 81 years to accept that fact.
The whole Cholesterol story began in 1913 with a Russian pathologist called
Anitschkow and his pet rabbits. (No, I am not making this up! He started
with two rabbits and suddenly he had a whole warren full!) Way back in the
days of button-up boots and before the advent of ball point pens and cling
wrap, Anitschkow demonstrated that raised Cholesterol levels produced
hardening of the arteries supplying the heart muscle (the coronary
arteries). That really was 1913 and Anitschkow’s work was done on his bunny
rabbits, but medical science was not convinced that what happened to Bugs
Bunny would actually happen to us. After all, we are not really large
However, his work was not in vain, because 47 years later a huge study was
done in America (the Framingham Study by a Dr. Kanel) and the initial
results were published in 1960. This appeared to show that Cholesterol and
heart disease were intimately connected. But the medical world is
notoriously slow to react to change, I’m afraid, and Kanel’s words fell onto
some stony ground. But there were a few believers. (I actually met Dr. Kanel
in the early 1970’s and I am glad to say he convinced me.)
The believers continued the research and it was in 1994 that the
Scandinavian 4S study finally and irrefutably proved the concept and the
need to lower Cholesterol, to in turn reduce heart disease, became
universally accepted. That’s 81 years after Anitschkow pointed the
scientific finger at Cholesterol.
Since the 4S study, the world has been looking at different ways of reducing
Cholesterol, from diet all the way through to some special drugs called
‘statins’. Now considering that all drugs have a certain ‘risk’ attached to
them, for my simple mind, we should at least start with dietary measures.
Non-dangerous stuff! I have given you the 10 Dietary Commandments before
(from Australian Cardiologist, David Colquhoun). Cut out this article and
laminate and stick on the refrigerator!
1. Eat bread every day, preferably multigrain.
2. Eat some fruit every day.
3. Never eat Cream or Butter again.
4. Eat more fish and eat less meat.
5. Use olive oil every day.
6. Eat some vegetables every day.
7. Eat a handful of nuts every day.
8. Use more fresh herbs and garlic.
9. Have a glass of wine with food every day.
10. Eat in a relaxed way and enjoy your food.
Now all that looks fairly easy and the glass of wine with it all suits me
down to the ground, I must say. However, note that that was a glass of wine,
not a bottle of wine! It is also a diet that is very easy to follow in
Pattaya, where fish and fruit abound. Just look at Thai food and how it fits
in - herbs, garlic, vegetables, little meat, more fish, no dairy products,
substitute rice grains for multigrain bread and you have a wonderful recipe
for a healthy Cholesterol reducing diet.
So what is your Cholesterol level? Do you have to do something about it?
Until you know your level, you won’t know what your relative risk of
Coronary Artery Disease really is. Have it checked! It is a very simple test
and the result comes back to you under an hour. Comparative testing against
previous years is also good as it shows the trend and if it is progressively
going upwards you can correct the situation well in advance of the danger
levels. Makes good sense.
Heart to Heart with Hillary
I am sure you get asked this all the time, but are all the women in Thailand
just on the make? Every one I have met and end up in a relationship with seems
to have her hand into your wallet within days of arriving at the condo with a
suitcase full of clothes. Or I should say an empty suitcase for me to fill with
clothes. At first all that was asked was money to buy groceries, and I thought
that was great, looking after me. But then the grocery bill seemed to be going
up all the time and the amount of food was going smaller. Then it was some to
send to Mama, school fees (in a village school?) for her children being looked
after by Mama, it just went on and on. I got sick of the hand out for money all
the time. That ended that one. Then the next one was the same, and the one after
that. Is there one honest woman in Thailand?
Tired of being an ATM
Dear ATM with exhaustion,
Is there one honest woman in Thailand? Of course there is. Yes, me. Just send me
your bank account details so I can see if you are a genuine match (oops, almost
wrote ‘catch’ there) and really deserve me. Petal, have you ever wondered why
the women you have formed a relationship with do this so easily? You are
obviously looking for your paragon of virtue in an area selling commercial
friendships. Quite frankly, you will not get a non-bar girl to just move in like
that. However, when you select a lady who will move in tomorrow, then she will
move out the day after that, once your financial support dries up. These are
‘mia chow’ (rented wives), and it is a purely financial relationship, with you
spitting out the money, just like the ATM. You’ve seen the T shirt, “No Money -
No Honey”, and that’s where you are, Mr ATM. The big honeypot. It is time you
began to look elsewhere and form a genuine bond with genuine women, and there
are many of them. But you won’t find them in a bar.
I read that the bar girls are worrying about the health of the local buffaloes,
because if they are all replaced by tractors then the pleading “buffalo sick,
send money” won’t work any more. Is this really true? Are they that devious?
Dear Buffalo Bobby,
I could have answered your letter with just one word - Yes! However, like all
begging attempts, it is up to you what you do. When you go across the pedestrian
footbridges in Bangkok, there will be somebody, usually with a rented baby at
the breast or an obvious physical deformity, with a begging cup at each
stairwell. You can give, or keep your money firmly in your pocket. Likewise the
begging letters, which all have a fairly common source, in fact there is a book
published for bar girls to learn English, that has a basic pro-forma letter of
the type “Dear Blank (fill in name of sucker, sorry, boyfriend), I miss you so
much. Unfortunately I have to tell you that I will have to go back to working in
the bar because my mother/brother/father/baby/buffalo (delete whichever are
inappropriate) is sick. If you could send $$$$$ (fill in the amount wanted) then
I could just stay here in our flat and wait for you. Life is not the same
without you (or without your wallet). Your loving girlfriend (Sai, Sim, Toy, A,
Bee, Dee, Nud, Nid - delete whichever is inappropriate). Yes Buffalo Bob, I
think you should keep your money in the bank at Wounded Knee and wait for the
Cavalry. The buffalo will look after itself. You don’t need to.
What is the situation with Thai law when you split from a live-in girlfriend?
Does she have any legal rights to your property, cars, houses and such. I’ve
been with this girl for about a year, but it’s time to change, but she’s already
got the hand out and wants the house and the car. Hand them over, or tough it
out? What is your advice?
Dear Black Jack,
You are asking the wrong person, Petal. This is Hillary, with heart balm for
those injured in love, not a lawyer specializing in marital problems, even
though some days it seems like it. However, I would imagine that the crux of the
matter hinges on whose name is on the ownership documents. Foreigners cannot own
houses in Thailand in their own names, so many just put the house in the
girlfriend’s name, which is not such a smart move if there is a break-up. (There
are other ways of retaining ownership, such as formation of companies,
mortgages, etc., but your friendly real estate agent can explain all those, not
me). But remember if the piece of paper says it is hers, she is then legally
entitled to it. Same goes with cars and other big ticket items. Since you went
into the relationship, apparently knowing there would be a time to move on
(“time to change” you wrote), then you should have been clever enough to protect
your interests. See a lawyer.
Let’s go to the movies:
by Mark Gernpy
Now playing in
Inglourious Basterds: US/ Germany/ France, Drama/ War –
Quentin Tarantino’s exceptionally bloody tale of Jewish-American troops
on the hunt for Nazi scalps in World War II France, starring Brad Pitt
and an amazing Christoph Waltz in a truly fine performance. A must-see
movie, though I’m uncomfortable with the fact that I’m recommending a
film that carries violence to such extremes. But it’s just that I find
the filmmaking skill so mind-blowing. Never have I felt such a
deliciously slow and inexorable building of tension in a scene, and such
studied control over all the aspects of movie-making. Will forever
change how war movies are filmed, and not only because of its extensive
use of German and French (it’s basically a foreign-language movie).
It’s simply a milestone in the history of film.
Rated R in the US for strong graphic violence, language, and brief
sexuality. In Thailand it’s rated “18+” under the new ratings system
which went into effect August 11. “18+” is an advisory rating that
suggests viewers should be 18 or older to see the movie. There’s a
warning to this effect just before the film’s main titles. Generally
Bandslam: US, Comedy/ Music – Probably the only film ever with a
character named “Sa5m.” (Hint, the “5” is silent; it’s a sign of her
independence, you know?) A new kid in town, teenager Will Burton,
assembles a fledgling rock band to compete against the best in the
biggest event of the year, a battle of the bands. Generally favorable
My Ex / Fan Kao: Thai Horror/ Romance – Ken is a heartthrob actor
with a bad boy reputation of loving beautiful girls and then dumping
them. After his marriage, one of his ex-girlfriends comes back from the
grave to exact revenge.
Buppha Rahtree 3.2: Rahtree’s Revenge: Thai, Horror/ Romance –
Continues the romantic-horror story of the revengeful ghost of Buppha
and her love struck cartoonist, played by Mario Maurer of Love of
Siam fame. An exceptionally bloody and confusing horror flick, and
one of those where most of the work of scaring the audience is done by
the soundtrack’s spooky music and sound effects. Rated “18+” in
Thailand under the new ratings system. Has the dubious honor of being
the first Thai film to be rated under the long-awaited Thai movie-rating
17 Again: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – A mild comedy about redoing
life over again from high school, and generally making the same mistakes
again. It uses a well-worn formula, but has just enough Zac Efron charm
to result in a harmless, pleasurable teen comedy. Mixed or average
Trail of the Panda: China, Family – A Disney live action film
directed by Chinese director Yu Zhong about a panda cub that is
separated from its mother and subsequently rescued by an orphaned boy
after going through a series of hardships and dangers in the forest.
The film was shot in the wilderness of Wolong, Sichuan, the area that
was destroyed during the massive earthquake of May 2008, as the film
crew was shooting, trapping some 28 crew members, including the
director, in the mountains for four days. The magnitude 8.0 quake left
more than 80,000 people dead or missing, and 370,000 injured. Also lost
was the 10-year-old female panda playing Pang Pang’s mother in the film;
she died in the quake, leaving three orphans.
Made in conjunction with China’s Wolong Panda Reservation, the movie is
a plea for understanding of pandas and for preserving their existence.
The parents of Lin Ping, the new Chiang Mai Zoo panda cub born May 27,
are from this panda center.
The story is sweet and the film is charming with several things to
recommend it – the very winning 11-year-old boy who stars, the loving
shots of the countryside, the animal photography – overall it’s a good
film for families with kids.
Jija - Raging Phoenix: Thai, Action/ Romance – Martial arts film
starring the amazing girl from the film Chocolate, Jija Yanin, a
true female action icon, who here combines her startling fight skills
with a love story and break dancing. A rather odd mix of a film, but it
should please martial arts fans. Watch it only when you’re
really in the mood for seeing startling martial arts images in a
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: US, Action/ Thriller – From Hasbro the
toy-makers comes another action-adventure film based on toys.
Nonsensical mayhem, and very loud, but stylish. Generally negative
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3: US/ UK, Drama/ Thriller – A thoroughly
engrossing and exciting film. Rated R in the US for violence and
pervasive language. Mixed or average reviews.
Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs [in 3D]: US, Animation/ Comedy –
Good animation. Mixed or average reviews.
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