Bangkok When the Leaves Turn, Part IX

After Leaves Turning, Part VIII

November 16-20, 2001

Friday, November 16, 2001

" ... already faced with the prospect of paying up to $70 billion, being the likely price tag for its coverage of the liabilities flowing from the tragic events of September 11th, insurers are now facing another billion-plus dollars in claims that will arise out of the crash of American Airlines flight 587 ..." - Lloyds

Hmmm ... let's see ... OK, $30 million, max, for the total write-off of the Airbus A300 ... say a couple million for the wiped out houses and the smashed boat, and that's being overly generous for that neighborhood ... ..well, that leaves a nice round billion bucks left over ... ..divided by 256 ... .just about $4,000,000.00 per dead passenger. - Insurance Adjuster, working with a pencil.

Now, moving quickly from the Accounting/Actuarial/Adjustment Departments of the Insurers to Airport Chapels at JFK and the Dominican Republic:

Much genuine sobbing, of course. Great grief, no doubt. Unabated sorrow, not questioned. For the most part ...

... But, in any 'population' ... whether it be those 'left behind' by this aircraft disaster,1 or by September's plunging skyscraper holocaust,2 or even by a lesser-headlined flaming head-on with a Chevron highway gas tanker ... there are always those who are not all that unhappy about being left behind. For every hundred whose heart clenches with genuine fear when they hear the airport announcement ... "Will the people awaiting passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 587 from New York please report to the airport chapel." ... well, there are, inevitably, those one, two, three ... or maybe more ... who think: "Can it be? Oh, God, forgive me for feeling this way ... but ... oh, please let it be!"

Yesterday I missed IN OUR PAGES: 75 AND 50 YEARS AGO [from the International Herald Tribune]:

1926: Rocket to Moon

VIENNA - A society for Exploring Universal Space is to be founded here by several important savants who want to undertake the practical attempt of firing off a rocket to the moon. The rocket would contain 1 kilos of flashlight powder and it is alleged that such a rocket would start at the speed of more than eleven kilometers a second and would arrive on the moon within 97 hours, or less.

1951: Thrifty in Paris

PARIS - United Nations officials and delegates to the General Assembly are used to living well, but Paris prices are forcing some of them to seek economy by doing their own laundry in hotel-room hand basins. The average living allowance for the rank-and-file official and delegation member is $12 a day. A modest hotel room in Paris costs around 2,000 francs daily. Nightclubbing, because of Paris prices, already has become virtually out of bounds for most UN personnel. Delegates and officials have started to dip into their own pockets in order to get through the day in good fashion. And so, many of the men who wrestle with international problems by day are washing out their own socks by night before retiring.

Today's IN OUR PAGES is really worth reading only for the century old entry:

1901: Automobile Run

LONDON - [The 'Daily Mail' says in an Editorial:] "The growing popularity of the automobile is attested by the fact that today more than two hundred vehicles will start on a run from London to Southsea, and yet this is only the 5th anniversary of the date when automobiles were permitted to run in England. If such progress has been made in England in five years, what may we not expect in fifteen? But for the ingrained conservatism of Englishmen, this country might have held the position which France at present occupies in the automobile industry."

Yesterday David, Rande and I went over to Puntip Plaza ... the Mecca of all things 'copied'. And, guess what? There is a Microsoft dealer there ... one that sells real Microsoft products. To celebrate we went out to Tongue Thai for dinner. The girl in the picture is Kim, Rande's girl friend.

This morning's Bangkok Daily News has reached a new level of photojournalism.3 Dear reader, do you remember the pig that was 'gifted' with both sexes? The News ran pictures of it several months ago ... apparently such a 'find' was good luck for local lottery players. Well, today, the News 'found' a human version of the same. Today, again, is that day when a 3,000,000 baht lottery number will be drawn.4

1 Four million goes quite a long way in the Dominican Republic, doesn't it? Even getting all the digits right in the National Lottery doesn't guarantee even half that.

2 Aside from the thousands who 'legitimately' died in the tumbling World Trade Towers there might be a few who found the event to be a convenient way to disappear. Perhaps on that fateful Tuesday morning a hangover demanded he have an extra round of coffee ... maybe she legitimately missed the bus ... or he had to run an errand for his boss ... she needed to make a call from outside the building: anyway, they were all some blocks away when the planes hit. Things had been going bad for them for a while; credit cards running out of room, a terrible relationship getting even worse, police getting too close to something ... any number of reasons for wanting a really fresh start. As the twenty million tons of concrete structure cascaded into dust and unrecognizable rubble just blocks away ... well ...

3 As has this journal.

4 On the 1st and 16th of the month the national lottery numbers are picked.

Saturday, November 17, 2001

This morning I received the following letter from a concerned reader:


It was with great amusement that I read your journal entry dated November 16th. But, I take exception to your inference (strongest in the footnote) that within any population pressed into an airport chapel after an airline disaster there are only two types. The honest grievers we both agree on. And, I admit to your "one, two, three ... or maybe more" who are figuring on ways to spend their settlement even before they know whether their loved one was cremated along with the plastic seat, compressed forever into the titanium frame or just plain lost at sea with the rest of the plane. But, you have left out the biggest group of all: the ones who don't give a damn about the money and for whom grieving is totally out of the question; they are just happy that the person is dead. I, for one, always read the list of passengers in hope of finding the name of someone I hate (even finding the name of someone who has slighted me in the past pleases me no end) ... and, I am sure that there are many just like me.

I forever remain your most faithful, humble and obsequious servant,

[Name withheld by request]1

Wescott revisits Hugh. We do too, because Hugh bit off a bit of bone from Mary Magdalen; and also, because here at, we have a photograph of one of her finger bones, albeit an ugly one.2

Hugh of Lincoln, or of Avalon
1140 - 1200

This happy, hot-tempered Frenchman was brought up to be a monk, and sent to work for the Carthusians in England. There he became Bishop of Lincoln, and was greatly admired by Henry II and Richard I for his frank and rude paternal attitude, even in opposition to them; King John liked it less.

The fifteen years he spent in the Grande Chartreuse in his youth ruined his health, so that in middle age he grew monstrously fat. He was a hard worker, magnificently just and reasonable except in moments of emotion. He beat his servants. He loved children. Relics he had a great passion for; and once, in Fecamp, he bit off a little piece of a bone on Mary Magdalen, not having one in his collection. He kept a pet goose and a pet swan. Everyone loved him; sovereigns, bishops, laymen, Jews, even John, followed his body to the grave.

American Conservative Baptist Christians make for a perplexing story in this morning's Bangkok Post: Thais wonder why people in countries with comparatively high disposable incomes continue to embrace such strange superstitions3: A Massachusetts Baptist minister 'believes' that the Harry Potter world is part "of a plot to lure children to junk food and the devil. 'This is something straight out of hell', he says.

Meanwhile the Bangkok Daily News worries its breakfast readers with an unsolved double death. As much blood was spilt, Morton worked past his normal quitting time. In an unrelated photograph on the same front page another Thai 'group' is seen being obviously pleased by something they saw on the inside pages of yesterday's paper.4

1 The name will be given upon a written request supported by a good reason.

2 In Whom it roamed ... well ... the Bible doesn't want to say.

3 'Stupidity' continues to be the nurturer of most monotheistic superstitions.

4 In the edition with the photograph of the 'gifted' human. Incidentally, had the Christ been one of 'these' ... well ... much could be explained about His 'missing' years; His disturbing adult years, as well.

Sunday, November 18, 2001

An uncharacteristically wordy NEWNES:

Wescott seems to sputter:

DIED 680

This spinster princess, having taken the veil in middle age, was put in charge of a monastery for both men and women at Whitby, on the cliffs over the North Sea, where she brought up bishops and gave advice to royalty and common people - mother to them all. The poet Caedmon was her protégé; and she made him translate large parts of the Bible into the common speech.

The Nation (Bangkok's other English language daily) reports:


The inaugural World Toilet Summit will begin in Singapore tomorrow featuring state-of-the-art restrooms and a mime performance depicting desirable and undesirable bathroom behavior, organizers said yesterday.

"Our Toilets - The Past, The Present and The Future", is the theme of the three-day event hosted by the Restroom Association of Singapore and supported by the Japan Toilet Association,1 Korean Clean Toilet Association and UN Environment Programme, the agenda said.

Among the subjects to be addressed are toilet designs for Muslim users,2 health and sanitation in the developing world, water savings, Finnish toilet culture, incontinence and other toilet-related diseases and maintenance practices. - Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

At 1:20am on Monday3 Bangkokians will get a chance to see the peak of the Leonid Meteor Shower (actually debris from the Tempel-Tuttle Comet). Last night, the Peninsula Hotel provided visual practice [406k MPEG] for this spectacular astronomical unfolding.

1 Earlier this year, recognized the 'work' of this trade organization.

2 A "Google" search for 'toilet designs Muslim users' was not helpful.

3 Which will be 1:20pm on Sunday in Virginia, site of the 2003 ICCA AGM.

PS Dear reader, just hours after posting today's journal entry I received the following disturbing piece e-mail from one of my readers. Attached to his e-mail was a computer-enhanced copy of one of my recent photographs of the "French hole."4 As you can now see, something terrible ... [but, back then, something totally invisible to my untrained eye] ... lived in this hole. Thank God, "Reader X" is an expert, not only in digital detection techniques, but also in the identification of subterranean dwellers.

Dear Alf,

Your November 17th "Scenes from a Bangkok Porch" reports that the French Embassy has covered up the hole in their yard. I suspect this may have something to do with the creature that at some point has wandered in there and made it's home in the warrens below. Covering the hole is a grave mistake.

This photo is the only known clear shot of this heinous beast (identified as a "Depth Dweller" by a local expert in such things). The worker shown has unknowingly escaped death by a very narrow margin, since the Dweller feeds by snatching down victims that approach the entrance to its lair.

I suggest you contact the embassy and advise them that short of calling in the marines, the only way to make the area safe to inhabit is to toss the occasional live goat down the hole for the Dweller to feed upon. A frequency of no less than once every three days should be observed. When the Dweller next emerges to feed, the cover on the hole will only infuriate it and compound the problem since the Dweller may emerge from the lair seeking victims in the area to vent its anger upon.

I hope I have been of some assistance in this matter.

Yours truly,

[name withheld by request]

4 Until now this "French hole" was something that all of us (even its French owners) saw as just an eyesore. Sure, perhaps it was something that a small child might fall into ... probably prompting a 'human interest' rescue activity from the next-door fire department ... but, really, it appeared to be nothing more dangerous than that. How little we knew.

Monday, November 19, 2001

Watcharee has enrolled in a cooking class: this week it's all about Chinese food.

And, this is a picture of our friend, Stephani, cooking in her kitchen in Florida.

Wescott resumes speed:

Elisabeth of Hungary
1207 - 1231

The birth of this exquisite princess and her marriage were foretold by Klingsor the Minnesinger in the course of a poetry-contest; and, according to the poet's plan, she was betrothed to the heir of Thuringia at the age of four, brought up with him, and married to him at fifteen. She was happy as long as he lived, in spite of the malice of the Thuringian ladies. But her husband went on a crusade and died; and she had come under the influence of an awful ascetic, Conrad of Marburg. He forbade even her charities if she took any personal pleasure in them; forced her to treat leprosy and other repugnant diseases with her own hands; made her spin for a living; took her children away from her. Broken in body and soul, worn out and humiliated, she soon died.


[from the International Herald Tribune]
1951 End of Pledge

BERKELEY - The signing of a special non-Communist affidavit a condition of employment at the University of California was dropped officially Friday [Nov. 16] when the Board of Regents voted against it for the second time within a month. The adoption of the non-Communist declaration in 1949 brought denunciations throughout the academic world.

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Before entering the 'body' please go to footnote #1.1


849 - 870

This short-lived King of the East English was taken prisoner by the Danes and would not be a Danish vassal unless their king became a Christian. So a certain Prince Hingmar had him tied to a tree, and all the archers of the army took aim at him. His body was left there in the woods of Suffolk - blood and bone in a very bush of arrows - until a gentle grey wolf led the way to it.


[from the International Herald Tribune]
1926 - Prince Saved

LONDON - Only the prompt action of Joe Sturgess, farm laborer, saved the Prince of Wales today from an accident, while riding with the hounds. Galloping, the Prince led the field in the Melton Mobray hunt and was making straight for a deep canal, which was hidden from view by a hedge. Sturgess ran in front of the horse and stopped the Prince just as he was about to leap the hedge and plunge unknowingly into the canal. Already bespattered with mud from head to foot, the Prince halted just long enough to thank the farmer, and then resumed the chase.



Yesterday, it was a sad and broken Watcharee who returned from her first Chinese cooking class. Everything had gone so well ... right up to the end ... so she thought; but, she forgot the MSG!

This morning the Bangkok Daily News leads with pictures of another meal that went horribly wrong.

1 On Sunday, November 18th, I reported on an upcoming conference scheduled for Singapore: "Our Toilets - The Past, The Present and The Future." Essentially, I just lazily copied out what was printed in The Nation (the other Bangkok English-language daily); but, I left a footnote that was misleading. Readers familiar with my stringent "user" and "password" controls can be relieved if they 'click here'.

PS (and NB): 'Today' had already been packed off to the printers when these two articles arrived at the editorial offices of [both from the Bangkok Post]:



The United States is in the final stages of accepting for resettlement the young, gun-toting twins who let a ragtag band of rebels in Burma's border jungles until their surrender earlier this year.

A spokesman for the US embassy in Bangkok told Reuters yesterday that the Immigration and Naturalization Service was dispatching a team to interview Johnny and Luther Htoo next week.

"But I can't say how long it will take before they are given permission to leave for the United States."

He said the interview was one of the final stages before the twins would be granted permission to resettle.

The boy soldiers, believed now to be in their early teens, led the God's Army ethnic Karen guerrilla group for years. The two fought against the Burmese army with scores of followers who believed that they had mystical powers.

The pair and 12 others surrendered to Thai authorities in January, after a crackdown by border patrols who cut off their food supply lines.

The twins, who became famous as a result of pictures showing them toting assault rifles and smoking cigars, told a news conference at the time that their fighting days were over.

The Htoo brothers as well as their mother, sister and the 12 other former fighters are now living in a Thai border patrol police camp, 100km southwest of Bangkok.

Ratchaburi provincial governor Gomate Daengthongdee said that Thailand's National Security Council and the United Nations' Refugee agency had set a schedule for them to leave for a third country by the end of the year.

"According to our policy, we plan to send them to a third country by the end of this year, but the final schedule and destination depends on the UNHCR {United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees]," Gov Gomate said.

He said it was likely they would go to the United States as they had been through several rounds of interviews by US officials.2


World Toilet Conference/Singapore

The world Toilet Organization which is being formed in Singapore this week at the inaugural World Toilet Summit, wants to take lavatories to the world, its founder said yesterday.

At the opening of the three-day summit in Singapore, the World Toilet Organization's founder Jack Simm said that the 30 countries at the core of the group hope to take toilets to the 40% of the world's population who have never flushed a loo.

He said most of these people are in Asia and in developing countries where there are no sewage systems.

Mr. Simm said all people have the right to "proper facilitation and sanitation."

"We are in the 21st century but toilets did not follow us into this century because the subject has been a taboo," said Mr. Simm, who is also president of Singapore's Restroom Association.

Personal hygiene became serious business in Singapore several years ago after the government said clean public toilets are a hallmark of a "gracious" society.

Singapore's Acting Environment Minister Lim Swee Say said the state was spending S$400 (17.6 billion bath) to upgrade public toilets at food centers, and another S$7 billion on a sewage system for the island's four million inhabitants.

Attendants at the summit discussed toilet design and culture.

Delegates from 17 countries were to go on a tour of Singaporean restrooms, including one at a major shopping mall where artists have painted every toilet by hand, said Mr. Simm.

He noted, however, that the world's best and costliest toilets were in South Korea.

The two-day summit opened yesterday with a pantomime performance, by actors and mime artists, of good and bad toilet behavior.

The actors covered such topics as automated toilets, smelly cubicles, and also paid tribute to the unsung heroes of toilet culture - cleaners.

British psychotherapist Alex Gardner said that some people suffer phobias and anxieties because of misconceptions about toilets.

He said that to ensure high standards of hygiene, people had to think about toilets as more than "a simple receptacle into which you put your waste."3

2 Watch for them on "Larry King Live". And, needless to say, their 'life experiences' will allow them to take the 'fast track' into the colleges of their choice. But, dear reader, remember saw them first right here on

3 "...mumble, mumble ..." [translated: "all this stuff about toilets, ladyboys...has the man lost it?"]

Next: Part X

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