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Saturday, February 2, 2008

BangkokAtoZ.com "The Rounds" for February 1, 2008

Here's the full column as it appears on my website (http://BangkokAtoZ.com):

Unusual January Rain

It's about 9:20 A.M. now, and much to my surprise, it began raining a few minutes after I got up a little over half an hour ago. And it's coming down moderately heavily -- not a flood, mind you, but any rain this time of year is unusual, so the more there is, the odder it is.

Like most people, I don't exactly enjoy the hot season, coming up next in Thailand's seasonal weather -- about now, in fact. While the rainy season always carries the risk of flooding at any given point, at least it's cooler than the hot season, so it won't exactly displease me (and a whole bunch of other people) if we move rather quickly into this year's monsoon season.

Just hope it doesn't flood, though. Well, that's dumb; it will flood, as it always does, in a variety of places. Let's say to hope the floods aren't bad.

Back to the top [Wednesday, January 20, 2008]

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Great News for Christopher G. Moore, Bangkok-Based Novelist

Increasingly well-known Canadian-born, Bangkok-based author/novelist Christopher G. Moore just keeps on soaring.

Chris' first novel was published in 1985; since then he has penned 19 books and one collection of interlocked short stories.

A few years ago, Chris began getting more and more of the recognition he so richly deserves. All of his writing is good; on occasion it rises to the level of truly great literature.

Chris is best-known for his series of novels starring the dark hero, private detective Vincent Calvino and for his The Land of Smiles Trilogy. It's regarding the Calvino series that some of the biggest news comes.

Keanu Reeves, the actor, has a production company and together with New York financier Steve Samuels has bought the film rights to the Calvino novels. If the folks in the US decide to make films of the books, Reeves will star as Calvino. People are in town now discussing the project with Chris. See Chris' blog entry for January 29, 2008 for more details. (As time goes by, you'll need to scroll further and further down, as Chris makes regular entries in his blog, the most recent first. Making this easier, however, is that he archives each month's blog separately.)

The next big news is that Chris' The Risk of Infidelity Index was reviewed in The New York Times Book Review section on Sunday, January 27, 2008 by critic Marilyn Stasio, it is the fourth book down the list she reviews. If you read the review, you may wonder why Chris is so pleased with it, as it isn't entirely positive. Well, that's pretty easy, actually: getting reviewed in The New York Times is a major boost to any writer. As Chris notes in the above-mentioned blog entry, before this review the novel (which is the latest in the Calvino series, by the way), at Amazon Books ranked somewhere at 200,000-plus, at one point yesterday morning it had leaped to the 1,867th spot. Clearly, a whole lot of folks who hadn't previously known of Chris' work were drawn to read about it. Chris doesn't mention whether the book experienced a jump in sales -- maybe he doesn't get real-time statistics (I don't know) -- but I bet it does.

Still not convinced? Well, the book became available at Amazon Books less than six weeks ago. Therefore, it's clear that such a huge jump up the list is significant (if not exactly scientific).

The next news has great potential. A fan of Chris' in England, Chris Beckingham, has started the Christopher G. Moore Facebook Group as a place where people can make comments, and learn more about Chris' works, life, and travels. By the way, you have to have a Facebook account to sign in -- clicking the link will take you to a page where you can log in using your email address and password, or, if you're not already a member, you can join (for free, and in just a few minutes), then you'll be redirected to the group.

The Internet has proven the extraordinary possibilities of viral marketing -- a fancy term for what's basically word-of-mouth advertising. It may not give the immediate boost a major review does, but over time, it can sure be an enormous help.

Finally, Chris has been the subject of several interviews recently -- more good exposure.

A personal observation: yes, I know Chris, and reasonably well. We first became acquainted in the wee hours at the old Thermae Coffee Shop many years ago. That said, I had already read two or three of Chris' books before I met him -- and was already sold on him as a writer. Now the only difference is I'm also sold on him as a person; one helluva nice man in addition to being one fine author.

I hope you visit Chris' website, especially his blog, and his Facebook group. If you're not familiar with his work.

Back to the top [Wednesday, January 30, 2008]

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Possibility of a Discussion Board

Giving some thought to setting up a discussion board, either within this site itself or maybe in a third-party service.

What I have in mind is pretty much a family-oriented board. Yes, the focus will be on adults, not on being a social network for young teens. But because this entire site is basically family-friendly, I would want any discussion board related to this site also to be family-oriented.

There could be various threads: various places in Thailand (Bangkok, Pattaya-Jomtien, Hua Hin, Phuket, Chiang Mai, and so on) and places within them. There also could be threads organized by type activity (hiking, water sports, visiting historical sites, etc.). A scam thread is always valuable, though the darned libel laws here are so strict that we would have to be really careful about naming names -- the named can file both civil and criminal charges against you!

The areas of discussion don't have to be geographically restricted to Thailand, but all discussions would need to have some sort of logical connection to the Kingdom. For instance, maybe you know of a great travel package from, say, Bangkok to Singapore you might post about, and if you've been on it, you could report on your experience with the package and add information about Singapore as a destination for a short visit for people living here.

I've dabbled with this sort of thing before, and made very little progress, so before I try again, I would like some feedback to get some sense if there's any interest, and if so, enough interest to justify the considerable behind-the-scenes work it will take for me to run such a board. And I encourage anyone interested who e-mails me to make suggestions for possible areas of discussion -- there may well be a worthy topic that I simply don't think of.

Please let me know if you're interested within, let's say, about a month -- March 1st. And please be sure to write something in the subject line along the lines of "AtoZ discussion board" or some such.

Back to the top [Wednesday, January 30, 2008]

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Traveling to China for the Chinese New

Year (or Whatever Reason)? -- Better Think

Again if Things Don't Change Before This column Goes Up

If you don't know about the travel problems resulting in China from astonishing winter storms, then either your travel plans don't involve the Middle Kingdom, or you've been hiding out.

Perhaps the most unbelievable news comes out of Guangdong Province, the super-powerhouse (economically) that geographically nestles next to Hongkong and Macau. It's also a semi-tropical province.

Yet both the Beijing-Guangzhou railway and the Beijing-Zhuhai expressway (Zhuhai being directly across the border from Macau) are closed due to icing and heavy snow.

Airports right around the country have either been entirely shut down or had their flight schedules go into absolute chaos.

Just to add to the festivities, deliveries of coal -- coal's the primary source of energy, including for heating, in China -- have been badly disrupted, so people are going cold.

The Chinese New Year is coming up in a few days, and, as always, China is on the move.

Or it was, anyway.

Now I'm listening to reports of more than 3 million here and another so-many million there and whatnot at best delayed, at worst probably unable to travel.

Chinese authorities aren't always exactly forthcoming on bad news, including about the weather, so if you have plans in the next few days to travel anywhere to The Center of the Known Universe -- check with someone you trust, first, before you, too, end up freezing half to death on a railway platform in ___________ or the terminal at ___________ (fill in the blanks).

Back to the top [Wednesday, January 30, 2008]

Late note: It's Friday morning now, and I just heard a television news report that the situation is improving. In particular, the railway between Beijing and Guangzhou has been repaired, raising the line's capacity from a reduced 100,000 passengers daily to 400,000 -- 200,000 each direction.

Back to the top [Friday, February 1, 2008]

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People's Power Party Set to Lead

The last steps in the process of the handover of power from the military coup that ousted Thaksin Shinawatra in September, 2006 to the newly-elected, People's Power Party-led multiparty coalition to take over governing the Kingdom

New PM Samak Sundaravej has named his 36-member cabinet, and once His Majesty the King formally endorses the members after their names are presented next Tuesday, the transfer will be complete.

However, ministers-designate still will be subjected to scrutiny over the next few weeks before the transfer can be considered truly final. Further, news reports indicate that part of the horse-swapping that took place as the cabinet gradually took shape -- a perfectly normal occurrence in a parliamentary system -- was to have a cabinet reshuffle in a few months.

PM Samak is wearing a second hat as well: he assumed the defense portfolio. Media reports are that the Thai military isn't pleased he has done so, as they generally prefer one of their own in the post to facilitate, as they see it, relations between the military and the government. But the military isn't frozen out; instead of naming a deputy minister, Samak will have a team of advisors that includes military personnel.

The PPP has promised to resurrect and expand the populist programs that made Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party so popular. Samak and other PPP leaders openly consider themselves nominees of Thaksin and TRT, so with the new government's ascension to power, it's entirely possible the deposed Thaksin's and dissolved TRT's problems will be coming to an end.

That Thaksin will return from self-exile abroad seems a given, particularly after he had telephone chats with General Sonthi, the man who overthrew him, and outgoing PM Surayad in the past few days, conversations reported as having been friendly.

In a sense, the calendar has turned back to before the coup. While the cast of characters may have different names, their program is Thaksin 2. It's easy to imagine that legal problems for TRT officials will be sorted, leading to their being able to legally serve as advisors to the new government. And I, for one, have little difficulty imagining the possibility that on up the road, some of those TRT people might return to formal government positions in a future government, perhaps under the PPP banner, even if Thaksin himself decides to stay out of direct electoral politics.

Back to the top [Friday, February 1, 2008]

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Tip Top Restaurant on Sukhumvit Road Near

the Sukhumvit Road Entrance to Washington Square

I've written about this very fine restaurant before, but a friend unfamiliar with it I mentioned it to a couple days ago urged me to write about it again. (Of course, he urged me to do so because he's a faithful reader and wanted to be REMINDED of it as a grub spot!)

Tip Top is an indoor, air-conditioned, two-floor restaurant, though the upper floor is open only in the evenings, except for private parties. The menu is extensive, with both some Western food and all sorts of Asian food, not only Thai, though predominantly so.

More about the physical menu itself. Portions of it are in English and Thai, but larger portions are in Thai only, so unless you read Thai, it's nice to have someone along who does. For instance, one of my favorite dishes is the raw green shrimp, but it's listed only on the Thai-only pages, and since I never can remember how to say it, I have to have a Thai-reading friend along to be able to order it. Ditto crab sticks, those false things I love because they come with REAL soy sauce -- none of this Maggi stuff more and more places around Asia (not just Thailand) are pawning off on Westerners as soy sauce, which it absolutely is not. Even better, it comes with . . . well, let's keep it simple: Japanese mustard (okay, wasaba), the hardish, green stuff that makes horseradish sauce seem to be mild as ice cream, even the hottest.

This is not a fancy place. It's more along the lines of, say, a diner in North America, or maybe a roadside inn restaurant in Europe. But the food is superb, the prices downright cheap, and the service right up there, if in a non-Michelin way.

You have your choice of sitting at a table, a booth, or a half and half -- a table in front of a booth seat with a couple regular chairs opposite. On the ground floor, there are picture windows, should you be given to watching traffic and pedestrians pass by (which I am, so this is another added attraction to the place for me).

On the Western menu, forget the salds, simply because they still haven't figured out salad dressings. Their idea of salad dressing is a weak, overly sweet Thousand Island or Thai mayonnaise (ugh).

But both the pork cutlet and the black pepper steak are worth trying -- I especially like the latter. The restaurant doesn't offer baked potatos, but never mind -- the entree is very good. They also have downright decent breakfast offerings; nothing fancy, your usual bacon-and-eggs. Oh, yeah, they have "ham" and eggs, but as is often the case here, even in a 5-star restaurant, "ham" basically means "pressed ham sandwich meat in tiny quantities." They also have sausage, but whether you order that is a matter of personal taste. For my palate, Asians have a long ways to go before they get the concept of sausage, but I do have Western friends who swear by the greasy, sweet, hard little links.

There are alcoholic beverages available, but they're limited. For instance, if you like something along the lines of Jack Daniels, you're out of luck, though there is scotch whiskey (Johnny Walker) available. They usually have Heiniken (sp?) and a couple of local beers (Singha and Leo, normally). They also have local whiskey.

This place is cheap. Not street vendor cheap, but for what you get, cheap. As I recall, the MOST I've ever spent there was about equal to US$20.00 at the time -- and that was for a party of eight. And, yes, we had some beers.

Smokers need to be aware that for quite some time the restaurant has enforced the no-smoking law. There are narrow flowerboxes outside beneath the picture windows, and in the one to the left of the front door as you enter they have put a can to serve as an ashtray, so you don't have to go far when the urge hits.

I really like the place, and recommend it.

Back to the top [Friday, February 1, 2008]

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Washington Square News

First off, as far as I know, George Pipas' condition remains essentially unchanged. two days ago I was told he is still in the Cardiac Care Unit [equivalent to ICU, but focusing on cardiac stuff]. I'm waiting for an all-clear from the medicos before I go to visit.

Ott of the Silver Dollar continues drifting between Silver, Moonshine in Jomtien, and the farm, as is her habit. Haven't seen much of Riam of Wild Country lately, but neither have I heard anything alarming, so I suppose she's fine. Meow, owner of Cat's Meow, doesn't come around all that much anyway, so it's no surprise I haven't seen her lately. The rest of the owners are rocking along okay.

Bear continues to revel in retirement, as does Tom-Tom. Nigel keeps running hither, thither, and yon -- he's one of those guys I reckon will hang up his spurs when he keels over! ;-) Saw Riley earlier this afternoon on one of his regular pop-ups from his job down in Kuala Lumpur; he's fine. Charlie W., Bubba, and Chris K., collectively a substantial part of the Minnesota Mob, are due in town in the next few days. Crazy John is hardly crazy anymore -- heck, he's boring! Not really, I hasten to add -- he's a nice guy and is wise to take it easy. Hwandee, late of the Silver Dollar (and my ex-girlfriend of years ago and my friend to this day) is due in town in a few weeks with Brian, her husband, for a holiday; I'm looking forward to seeing them -- great folks. Aussie Cal should be up in about a month on his regular every-10-or-11-week visit for a week or so, and everyone's looking forward to seeing him. Dougy, Dale, and Bundy are all well. Jack P. is about to shove off on one of his regular visits to the U.S., and has, happily, been around the square quite a bit lately -- there for awhile he made himself rather scarce. Brad "The Lad" is getting settled back in and looking forward to getting back to teaching in university come Monday. Tobin "The Robot" has moved onto Chiang Mai, where he's taking up a post next Monday. (His Missus would have preferred staying in the San Francisco area -- despite being a native of Chiang Mai herself. But she lost that argument; I wonder in what way she's making Tobin suffer???)

Happily, no bad news I know of regarding any Squaronians to pass along. (That sure is a tiresome task when it does come up.)

A couple bars in the Square have changed hands, and I've yet to pay port calls so as to be able to make a report on either, but I'll rectify that omission within the next week or two.

Business around the bars (that HAVE business) is okay; not all are doing that great. I was in the New Square One Pub earlier this afternoon, and it was jumping; later, I made a stop at Cheers Pub, and it was doing okay as well.

Rumors about the Square's future have sort of died down; I guess the lack of any concrete knowledge has put paid to them. No one really knows what will happen, I guess -- maybe not even the folks at Nana Land, the outfit that owns the land itself (and, in a few cases, directly own a given shophouse). Given the uncertain economic climate, my own suppositions have changed. Before, I figured we might see bulldozers tonight -- or not for a dozen years. Now, I'm betting we won't see them anytime in the near future.

Over the road [Soi 22] Queen's Park Plaza remains quiet, at least in the few places I go. And I have heard the other places are very quiet as well. Q.P.P. never has really caught on the way I thought it would when it first opened, and I've never quite figured out why. I do like a number of the bars there, myself.

Back to the top [Friday, February 1, 2008]

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Office Bar & Grill Sports Broadcast Schedule

Didn't get this until this afternoon (Friday), so lopped of the match Thrusday and matches today, but here's the rest of the schedule:

AFL FOOTBALL RETURNS - SAT 24.00

CHALLENGE CUP CARLTON V FREMANTLE

Sat 2

16.00

- Golf

Dubai Classic

LIVE

19.45

- Soccer

Man city v Arsenal

LIVE

21.00

- Rugby

Ireland v Italy

LIVE

22.00

- Soccer

Tottenham v Man U

LIVE

22.00

- Soccer

Blackburn v Everton

LIVE

22.00

- Soccer

Portsmouth v Chelsea

LIVE

23.30

- Rugby

England v Wales

LIVE

24.00

- Soccer

Liverpool v Sunderland

LIVE

24.00

- AFL

Challenge Cup Carlton v Fremantle

LIVE

Sun 3

11.00

- Cricket

Australia v India ODI

LIVE

15.00

- Cricket

SA v West Indies ODI

LIVE

16.00

- Golf

Dubai Classic

LIVE

20.30

- Soccer

Newcastle v Middlesbrough

LIVE

22.00

- Rugby

Scotland v France

LIVE

23.00

- Soccer

Fulham v Aston Villa

LIVE

Tues 5

15.00

- Cricket

Australia v India ODI

LIVE

15.00

- Cricket

NZ v England 20/20

LIVE

The Office Bar&Grill


Sukhumvit Soi 33


Tel : +662 662 1936

Back to the top [Friday, February 1, 2008]

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Enough for one go . . .

Until next time --

Mekhong Kurt


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