Sunday, 28 November 2010

My movie top 20

Copying Paul Garrigan a bit, who posted his album top 65 last week, I show my personal movie top 20.
If you like action movies and special effects, ignore this post except for no.18.
I like originality, so perhaps a better name is the top 20 most original movies after 1950. (As far as I can judge).

1. Delicatessen (1991)
Trivia: In his last interview just before he was killed, Dutch movie director Theo van Gogh wore a T-shirt with the logo of this French film-noir absurdist post-apocalyptic movie
2. Ugly, Dirty and Bad (1976)
Chaos in a poor and anti-social family in Rome after the main character wins a prize in the lottery. A movie like only Italians are able to create
3. Amélie (2001)
Unconventional movie made by one of the directors of Delicatessen with some of the same actors.
4. Underground (1995)
In a big basement in former Yugoslavia partisans are making weapons for WWII, but they are never told war is over, finally they go out to discover the war (another one) is still going on.
5. Life of Brian (1979)
The main storyline is probably more near to the truth than the original gospel, according to Paul Verhoeven director of Basic Instict, Total Recall and other movies, but also member of the Jesus Seminar – a group of scholars in theology, philosophy, linguistics, and biblical history.
Brian: I am NOT the Messiah!
Arthur: I say you are Lord, and I should know. I've followed a few..
6. The New Guinea Trilogy
Documentary covering the live of one man and his tribe from 1982-1992 in parts 2 and 3 and original footage from 1930 in part 1. Very hard to get but some fragments are on Youtube
7. Bombón: El Perro (2004)
Amazing performances by a full amateur cast, from Patagonia. Despite his hardships, the main character, a poor man, looking for a job, is able to keep his inner-calm and remain his dignity. 
I am not sure why I watched this movie 6 or 7 times and didn't loose interest.
Great casting and directing from Almodóvar and first-rate acting from Penélope Cruz and all others.
9. Don't Look Now (1973)
Excellent story and acting, innovative camera-work, but poor sound quality
10. Being There (1979)
Last movie of Peter Sellers, privately co-funded by himself
11. La Strada (1954)
A classic from Fellini, excellent casting with his wife Giulietta Masina and Anthony Quinn.
12. Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
An impressive movie from Yimou Zhang starring Li Gong who acted in eight of his movies 
13. Life Is Beautiful (1997)
The main character played by Roberto Benigni, is Jewish and is being deported to a concentration-camp in WWII allong with his wife and son. He loves his son too much to tell him the truth, so he makes it look like a special holiday camp.
14. The Story of Qiu Ju (1992)
A very original movie from Yimou Zhang starring Li Gong, about a woman fighting against Chinese authorities and the law.
15. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
A classic starring Jack Nickolson about the maltreatments in a lunatic asylum, which he is temporarily able to give a different twist.
16. The Shining (1997)
The author Stephen King didn't like the original and had it remade into a 4 hrs and 33 min. movie, which exactly follows the novel and was broadcasted on TV as a mini-serie
17. Il Postino: The Postman (1994)
A touching movie, loosely based around the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who remained in Italy in exile for some years.
He meets up with a simple postman who'd like the to impress the most beautiful woman on the island with poetry, which he is eager to learn from Neruda.
18. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Based on a short story from Stephen King: If you haven't seen it, it's no.1 in the IMDb op 250 since 10 years or so, should I say more.
19. Inception (2010)
Don't watch this movie, especially not in 3D if you're epileptic or manic depressive, so a friend in Chiang Mai told me. Since it's like taking hallucinating drugs. So some will need to remain in their chair for a while to recover at the end .The author Christopher Nolan is also the director and that's a good thing, since how to write down what you see and how to make a movie that good from a complicated novel with four (virtual) reality levels.
20. Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
Last movie of Pasolini before he was killed in the same year, despite it's disgusting and cruel scenes, it taught me how some people lacking any empathy can act in real live, therefore I regard this as a true horror movie, unlike any other

Oyster street-seller with cute doggy

Seen in Phuket, Patong, Soi Kebsap:
An oyster seller with a cute little dog.
In Western countries this would not be considered as very hygienic, the shells are still closed however, but preparing them including dog-hairs is another matter of course. Probably the seller didn't have the right licence, because he hid his face as soon as I pulled out my camera.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

And the Darwin award of the month goes to..

German hobby-mason locked-in in his own basement

Edited photo thanks to
Jeffrey Long
A 64-year-old German man, who was planning to block access to his basement by constructing a brick wall, came to the surprising discovery, once his job was finished, he was on the wrong side, reported the police of the town Khala, in eastern Germany. After the man started to build the wall with bricks and mortar last weekend and the job was done, he found himself in the part that he wanted to close off, police said in a press release. After having spent the weekend in his basement with a hammer and something to eat with him, he decided to take action. Instead of destroying his own new wall, he chose to make a hole in the wall of his adjoining neighbours, with whom he had several problems in the past.
The latter being alarmed by the noise, informed the police.

My question is; how long did it take before he noticed his mistake and how long does it take for mortar to dry, or he didn't want to destroy his work in the first place?

Christianity in Thailand already here for 460 years

In the 1550's the first missionaries from Portugal arrived in Thailand.
Unlike missionary work in Africa and South America they were not able to have a big influence in society.
Christianity seems somehow to be incompatible with Buddhism, scoring the world's lowest Christianity percentage in S-E Asia across the world. In most countries like China and Japan they had very little success.
In fact in Japan, trading was finished with the Portuguese because they brought too many missionaries in the country, disturbing their highly developed culture, in favour of the Dutch who understood the problem and promised just to stick to trading and were granted the trading monopoly on the small island of Deshima and were prohibited from going into the rest of the country.
Exceptions to the rule are the Philippines where for long time the Spanish and later the American missionaries successfully succeeded to f*ck up things thereby ruining the original country's culture and Indonesia which was occupied by the Dutch for about 150 years.
Christianity is still growing in Thailand, but (fortunately) Thai population grows more fast than the new Christians, resulting in 0.8% or less than 500,000 souls at this moment.
Especially in the North and along the North-Eastern border, where the very poor people live, missionaries scored bigger successes, especially with Laotians living in Thailand and former Myanmar hill-tribe people like the Karen tribe. When visiting the long-necks near Chiang Mai at the end of the village I was disgusted to see a Christian church, apart from the fact that a part of the whole tribe was moved there as a human zoo in 2005, easily reachable by taxi from Chiang Mai.
Now Christian missionaries gave up the direct approach and are into doing good work building their own hospitals and training centres, thereby retrieving once in a while a new lost Thai soul.
Nearby my mansion there's a small Catholic institute which gives vocational training to (bar)ladies and ladyboys, like English language, computer lessons, hairdressing and massage, all free of charge.
They hold three masses on Sunday at different times: One in Thai at noon, later one in Italian and after that one in French.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Look mum, we've just got our first tattoo

Seen in Patong: two young UK tourists just got their first tattoo, for ฿10,000 / €250 / $333 each.
Very cool indeed. Hope they are happy with it throughout their life.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

How to beat a Thai bar-lady at Connect 4

Edited photo thanks to Simon
Few foreigners are able to win from Thai bar-ladies playing Connect 4, especially when being challenged to play for a drink.
If you're being challenged for a drink it usually means the lady played it at least over a 1000 times and will be easily able to beat any above-average player.
Basically Connect 4 is a simple game with 7.1x10^13 possible outcomes. Far less complicated then Chess, Checkers or the Chinese game Go. Also the're few official competitions for this game because it's a "Who begins, wins" game. Meaning if you start and play a perfect game, you will always win, no challenges there for the pro's. The best way to learn the game is to try and exercise against a computer. So far the best program I found is Velena, made by Giuliano Bertoletti in 1997. As far as I know, Velena was the first program able to play a perfect Connect 4 game, evaluating all possible moves until the end and choose the best one. Other perfect player programs are TitOT and Mustrum (For non-Germans, select the tab Einstellungen -> Sprache to change to English or some other languages).
Velena has an opening book of 60,000 moves to save processing time and then continues with brute force.
For software fanatics, the source code in C is available as well.

Classic opening for a perfect game
Yellow will win. Pretty boring like this
Provided you start, winning against the computer at the highest level  is relatively easy, since Velena will always do the same moves from the opening book. Besides there's a button to hint your next move, so after a dozen times you will know your contra-moves, but take care, do any other move and  you're out.
If you really want to learn the game as a beginner you better start at low or normal level.
Remember you have to play it many times and try the other two programs as well. Mustrum seems to be more unpredictible and human but at highest level still defeats you every time if you didn't start and didn't play perfect. In the mean time exercise with live people, but never for a drink, unless you can call yourself an expert. (Not in drinking of course..)

Now my eight basic rules of Connect 4:
1. Always start building up from the middle, here you have the most chances to win.
2. Never fall into this easy trap: If your opponent began and puts a second stone of the same color at the bottom always put you stone at one side, preferably the side which allows you to still be able to get four in a row later.
3. Unless your opponent is tired or as you want to a surprise your opponent, never put three stones in a row where the other is able to directly defend unless you want to force her/(him), since you found a strategic move which you would like to built up. In all other cases your original position and stone will be lost.
4. First always look at your defense, now matter how favourable move you can make. Prevent your opponent from having three in a row, unless she/(he) will not be never to make four (eg. in the corners) or if it's just on top of your trap of three in a row since in this case you will always be able to win if you come there first or defend if you come there as second. Only if your opponent did a irrelevant move where she/(he) can never get four in a row in all four directions, except vertically, which you always can block, or in case you're not able to defend, open your attack and take care to put your stone where ever you will be able to have three in a row and later four of course.
5. Try building traps; three in a row without a gap and empty positions on either side is more favourable than three in a row with a gap, since you will have two chances on both sides.
6. Creating triangles of three stones with free positions aside is good for you.
7. Once mastering the game; know when to stop since alcohol and fatigue affect your ability to play.
8. Tricks in the trade of experienced players are using high speed with a certain nonchalance, which will make you feel to do the same, for beginners always take your time however. Once you might be able to do the opposite. Another trick is to (secretly) check how well someone plays against another and after a few games challenge the winner to play against you.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Police and other authorities make Thailand look like a Banana Republic

Photo taken at 19/11/2010 at 23:05h at a massage parlour / brothel:
Tourist police drinking cans of Chang beer during duty
Here all three officers carefully hid their  beer,
going well with their free evening snack
As written earlier according to independent research, since the last two years, out of 178 countries, Thailand now belongs in the top 100 most corrupt countries in the world.
How Thai people are expected to become or remain law abiding citizens if police-officers themselves show the worst example? In Phuket a typical day for a police officer starts with taking breakfast in an expensive hotel, free of charge, for the rest of the day they believe their duty consists of drinking coffee, free of charge at any place of their choice. I didn't see or hear about free lunches and/or dinners but most likely this´ all in a day's 'work'.
For bar or (street)-restaurant-owners it's normal to pay money to the police on a monthly basis, similar to Italian shops paying protection money to the Mafia in earlier days.
If you don't wear a helmet while driving a motorbike as a Thai person you will be charged ฿300 / €7.32 / $10 and as a foreigner ฿500 / €12.21 / $16.70, which is a gross violation of the UN ICERD act, which has been signed by Thailand as well, but once handing over your ID, you're still allowed to drive and upon paying the fine at the police office, where you can go and leave on your motorbike still without helmet, you cannot be charged for the same offense within another 12 hours to go. How tolerant, but's what lesson do you learn when paying a fine and are still allowed to carry on tresspassing the law? Sponsoring crooked law enforcement? Also the police is involved in drug schemes whereby the buyer is being extorted by an informed policeman to pay a big sum in cash or face an undefined time in jail. The police isn't very popular in Thailand and so far I didn't meet a single person who had a good word to say about the regular Thai law enforcement. The tourist police is there to protect tourists, which people don't complain about but the other officers are commonly being referred to as Mafia. I'm sure corruption differs from office to office and from province to province and perhaps Phuket is the worst example.
Besides the police it's common practice for immigration officers in Phuket to accept under the table money to prolong visa's even when everything is fully in order and since a few years the new chief promised to fight corruption in his office. But as long as there's no effective system to verify and correct illegitimate behavior of civil servants, corruption will continue, blocking the natural growth of Thai economy. But in Thailand ranking country no. 26 with the least freedom of press worldwide, not many will speak out their opinion and/or experiences in public. Therefor I expect little comments on this post.
We keep on going and smile..

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Motorcycle sidecar for the dog

Seen in Phuket today:
There was a lot of roadwork going on, which made the road very bumpy, the dog managed to keep standing on all four legs however.

Basic Italian for Thai

The other week in my hotel we got six Italian people, few of them being able to speak English, so I thought it would a good idea to teach the reception some basic words and counting. Having learned Italian without books I made some writing errors. Unfortunately one Italian came down and went improving on my writing and objected to the use of accents (é and è), but I told him this was for pronunciation only, but he already started to take over my class teaching Italian in Italian, which was confusing for the receptionists and reminded me of the sketch below.
Anyway the counting is still there and I see the receptionists sometimes peeking at the blackboard, when giving them the key for their room and telling the room number in Italian.

Funny French

Seen advertised at: a French restaurant in Bangkok.

 The menu
Discover the menu, from
authentic and sophisticated dishes to aged meats and live lobster..
Click to know more..

I wouldn't like aged meats or live lobster, I prefer them dead, how about you?

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Ghost Towel

Since I had to sleep alone from the age of 4 at a different floor from where my family was sleeping, I imagined to see ghost figures on the top of my curtains and in fact it was a bit of a traumatic period for me at that age, dreaming of ghosts who wanted to kill me. But this image, which was just a towel happen to hang down, taken in my room yesterday has to really scare some Thai people, who are more superstitious, off.

Why 7/11's have locks on their doors?

I like my hotel here in Phuket. When it was constructed about 20 year ago or so they didn't include any doors or fences. It's open 24/7 and there's always somebody to take care. See below a picture of the night guard.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The 7th generation princess of Malay Langkawi lives in Phuket

Princess Mashuri
Seventh generation ancestress of Princess Mashuri: Whan Aishsah
According to a famous legend in the 14th century, the Malay isles of Langkawi had a famous and beautiful white skinned princess called Mahsuri, who came from Phuket and she was adored by the locals because of her beauty. But other ladies on the island became jealous and spread the rumour that she committed adultery, finally she was killed and according to the legend her blood which came out was white. Also the legend tells that when she was killed she made a curse, that everything would go bad for the island for six generations to come.
When the seventh generation descendant, of Mashuri called Wan Aishah, was born around 1985 in a hospital in Phuket the legend continues; no other child was born that day and when she was born; all the lights went off in the hospital in Phuket.
From that time tourism in Langkawi boomed. I went there in the early eighties and it was a nice place to visit with just only one resort. And when I went back to the airport, and wanted to check in, they told me to wait for the pilot to pick us up.
Wan Aishai went in 2000 to Langkawi when she was 15 and gave an interview for the Langkawi radio and was surprised that she was treated as a true celebrity out there.
According to many the curse has been lifted by now, but I wouldn't like to visit it again, being too touristic by now. So a curse for one is a blessing for another, I suppose.
Now the before more prosperous Malay isle of Penang seems to be cursed: All high-tech industry left to China and tourists prefer to go to Langkawi because it's tax-freedom and having a lot of facilities and tourist-attractions now. When I went to Penang one and a half months ago, I was surprised to find streets without lightning and big wholes in the drainage on the sides of the street, which I only saw in Laos so far. Also all of the capital Georgetown seems to have been turned into China-town, because without tourism, nobody else is able to make a living there except the Chinese I suppose.

The smallest resaurant in Phuket

Seen in Patong, this has got to be the smallest restaurant in the whole of Phuket,
It's a Chinese restaurant and it has only four tables and eight chairs.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Worst street artist ever

Seen tonight in Patong, Soi Kepsab; the worst street artist ever. He was able to blow two notes on his trumpet, and after I gave him 100 Baht, he was able to buy one more cheap Thai wiskey, but that was it. And he went to sleep. I hided his belongings, like money and his trumpet into safety behind the red exchange office. Since it would be sure to have been been stolen otherwise.
According to some people, he left the next morning at six, he blew his trumpet a few times and left with his belongings.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Thailand ranks no.9 in global shoplifting

According to a survey held in 42 countries/area's by the Centre for Retail Research, Nottingham, UK, 1.57% of Thailand's retail sales is lost by shoplifting either by visitors or by own staff.
India has the highest rate by far, shoplifting accounting for 2.72% loss. The lowest rate is being observed in Taiwan with 0.87% loss.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

The three post-mortum miracles of my father

After my father died back in April 2009, three strange things happened:
After his death, my mother presented a Rexxor automatic analog watch, which my father used to wear, to my cousin. My cousin didn't seem to care that much since he already had a nicer one. So he kept it in a drawer and after a while it stopped running.
Later my mother felt not OK with this gift so she gave him something else and asked to return her the watch, which she put at the desk in my father's office in her home. Of course from the temporarily movement it started running again, but the strange thing is it has never stopped running since August 2009. My mother claims to never touch it, dust it, or move it.
She first thought it was energized by the sun, but I told her this could never be the case for this watch. Now and then I ask my mother: "How about the watch?", at which she so far each time replied: "Oh, still running.."
II I got my father's cell phone which he hardly used, since he got it as a present back in 2007, but he found the buttons to small. It's the first credit card sized phone and probably also it had to many functions built in. I got it in July 2009 and am still using it. A half year ago something in the miniature power connector broke, and only after long wiggling and waggling, I was able to charge it and with time it became harder and harder to get it charged. Since one month ago however it seemed to have repaired itself and I am now able to charge it just like it was as before.
III After my previous watch was broken I asked my mother to give me my fathers watch, which she originally bought as a present, but my father hardly wore it, since he liked to have the date on it as well.
I could only get it if  I took very good care of it, which I do.
Like many old stock watches the leather around the knob to adjust the time wears or dries out and doesn't make it waterproof anymore.
So was this one. Sometimes I make the mistake to wash my hands and get water spilled over it or leaving it in the bathroom when taking a shower, the glass gets foggy for at least a day. At another occasion in Chiang Mai I visited the 10 waterfalls and the air was so humid I obtained the same result. So you could say basically my watch it is as leak as a basket.
This morning I dropped it accidentally in the toilet pot and it took me a while to get it out, I expected a foggy glass as usual, but nothing happened. (See the photo on the left, taken today)
So did it repair/revive itself like the other items?
I have to wait and find out in a non destructive manner like I promised when I got it.

If proven to be true, my father could qualify to be declared holy or a saint by the Catholic Church, since  in order to achieve this, one needs to have performed at least two authenticated miracles and my father is up to three by now, who knows what he does next..
What a pity that throughout his life my father was strictly agnostic.

I will keep you updated should any miracle be unmasked or authenticated.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Micro Dutch expat community in Patong and my special positive food

Dutch hotchpotch with smoked sausage
I stay in Phuket almost for two months now, awaiting my visa papers for which I applied for 1 and 1/2 month ago.
Phuket has some places of interest, but for me basically it's a foreigners Disney version of the real Thailand.
Not much to do for me here, hence some of my previous articles dealing with second or third hand experiences / reports.
Recently I decided to check out the Dutch scene concentrated in Patong. I have heard in Pattaya the're lots of Dutch, but I have no urge to go there, not for the moment anyway.
So far I visited/met six Dutch people who settled here.
One just started working 20 hours a week on internet being payed by a Dutch software company.
Two others have a bar, one of them owns a typical Dutch bar in a side street of Bangla Road, the other has a more neutral bar (No orange, no Dutch flags), located a bit hidden in the Otop area.
Another has a restaurant for 15 years called the "Old Dutch" and has the longest established business as a Dutchman in Patong, but now the name is being changed to "Blue Horizon", because besides being a very kind and professional owner he doesn't sell a lot of Dutch dishes anymore and now relies more on international tourists by cooking good Thai food.
Today I visited another two Dutch dash Belgium people who own Bo's Beach Bar which is basically a Dutch bar and restaurant, but offers Thai, and other international dishes as well, located near the end of Patong beach, direction Kamala Beach.
I was surprised since I never saw so many Dutch people gathered since my arrival in Thailand more than one year ago. To me the guests, all Dutch, appeared to be of the same kind of tourists visiting places like Costa del Sol in Spain or Alanya in Turkey and so on, but meanwhile I learned to never judge anyone before talking to them first, which I didn't.
I joined in with the cultural barbarianship and ordered Hotchpotch which consists of potatoes, unions and carrots all mashed together, this went along with a Dutch meatball and a bit of gravy. I have to admit that it tasted excellent.

My stomach was a bit upset the last days and a food-expert in Holland once told me all yellow food is good for me and each time when I tried natural yellow colored food like corn, pasta, mashed potatoes, it always gave me a good feeling in my stomach afterwards. Hotchpotch is yellow orange and give me the same positive feelings as well. Also my mother used to say that if you long for special food, your body probably needs it and as long as you stay in close contact with your body, which will avoid you from eating fast food etc., I guess she's right.
Tonight I did the right thing for my body, but tomorrow I'll be eating lovely Thai food again.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

NY-Times: Thailand ranks 153 in the freedom of press

According to the NY-Times the French organization Reporters Without Borders ranks the country of smiles at a 153rd place out of 178 countries regarding press freedom, dropping 23 places compared with last year.
According to the organization a mere 25 countries are worse off, namely: Belarus, Swaziland, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Somalia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tunisia, Vietnam, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Laos, Rwanda, Yemen, China, Sudan, Syria, Burma, Iran, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, in that order.
Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland score a no.1 position, but maybe better I now just shut up and smile.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

World Bank: One-third of Thai households make more than ฿14,000/$450 per month

A wooden farmer's house in a rural area of
Roi-Et province in Isan
Poverty is still a big problem in Thailand.
In their report the World Bank states: Currently less than 35 percent of Thais live in a household making more than 14,000 baht ($450) per month.
Or in other words: two-third of Thai households earn less.
The poorest area in Thailand is Isan in the North-East and accommodates 20 million people or about one-third of Thailand's population.
I have no exact recent data, but from what I read, extrapolating these figures with annual growth, in Isan an average family will earn about ฿6,500/€150/$215 per month.
Outside the cities, agriculture or rice farming is the major activity and areas near rivers will normally yield two crops a year, other dryer and therefor poorer areas will have to settle with just one crop per year.
As a Dutchman it's hard to understand why there are no small canals with water locks of course, in the dry areas which are mainly flatland, but so be it.
Last month however was a good month for the people in the dry areas, since their only crop was not affected by the flooding. Besides the human tragedy, this year farmers in the wet areas lost their entire second crop. Apart from selling lottery tickets which is a popular (additional) source of income for older people, a large part of the community in these area's rely for the rest of the year on their son's and daughter's sending money back home.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

What Thai visa do you need? Now made easy..

From what I learned about the complicated visa system in Thailand I thought it would be a good idea to make a flowchart in order to simplify selecting your visa type.
Please you expats, help me and others if you think anything is wrong or could be improved or needs to be updated, since the immigration laws and regulations can sometimes change very fast. eg. when the militaries came in charge in 2006, the rules tightened that much that one didn't feel welcome anymore.
Since 2008 however, as far as I understand there's a certain degree of relaxation and even though some rules still officially exist, immigration will usually not follow them up.
Also realize the prices go up the more you go down in the flowchart.

Click on the image below and enlarge it to full screen.


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