11th April, 2011 – At home by the Lake in East Pattaya.

3 Months, 11 days – Still sober.

This, that and the other…

I don’t know why, but I’m feeling a trifle low today. Nothing to worry about too much and I may well cheer up as the day goes on. I suppose we can’t always feel at the top of our game.

One of my concerns is the amount of time I am spending at my computer. To the detriment of other activities, such as taking exercise, taking Cookie, my golden retriever, for a swim and generally just doing a few useful things around the home instead of staying stuck at my computer table for endless hours and then adjourning at some time in the middle to late evening to watch a few downloaded movies or TV programmes, barely pausing to fill my stomach with whatever food little Noo puts in front of me.

I am aware that I need to balance out my time a bit better, especially as far as taking exercise for me and my dogs are concerned. If can just kick that one into touch I feel I will be doing quite well with my new life.

Yesterday I spent a few hours responding to email from family and friends  and doing other bits and pieces on my PC, and then sat down to try and watch the Malaysian Grand Prix  before going out in the late afternoon to meet  my ‘weekend friend’ at our customary Lakeside bar.

Formula One

I rarely bother to watch the Formula One Grand Prix races as I must admit that of all the sports in this world, I do find Formula One mind-numbingly boring, and even if there is a rare moment of excitement, the cameras are rarely on hand to show it live. After they had completed 32 odd laps of the 58, I gave up the unequal struggle to become enthused. The whole race seemed to hinge on how many tyre changes each car made, when they made them and how fast the tyres were changed by the pit crews.  It all seemed so asininely ridiculous – the outcome of an obscenely expensive race between the most expensive racing cars ever built, depended on how fast some grease monkey changed their tyres.

Indeed the lead changed hands so many times, due to multiple tyre changes that even the commentators couldn’t keep up with what was going on. One minute Hamilton was in the lead, the next minute he was back in 7th place, then back to second, and finally – I found out later as I had long since gave up watching – he ended up 7th, later apparently relegated to 8th place due to a time penalty!.

We had some very heavy storms in the afternoon and when the rain finally calmed down enough for me to make the short journey, it was no surprise to find the large bar totally bereft of customers.

My friend arrived about half an hour later, having watched the Grand prix in a bar downtown. He is a Formula One ‘fanatic’ but when I asked him what had happened to Hamilton, he replied that he didn’t know – it was all too confusing!!

Call it a sport? I don’t! I’d rather watch curling, darts or even horse racing (which I also hate, due to the influence of the gambling fraternity, who invariably have a ‘say’ who wins.)

Ah well, at least it’s a nice bit of controversy and something to have a friendly argument about.

Noisy bars

The bar was so dead that we decided to adjourn to the new bar I wrote about the other day, near to the Pong market. This turned out to be a livelier watering hole; actually a bit too lively for me. We met up with another of my old drinking mates but I had trouble in joining in the conversation as the management had decided to turn the TV’s up excruciatingly loud , as they were showing a live boxing match from the USA on Pay Per View. After 30 minutes of shouting to make myself heard, I gave up the unequal struggle and drove back home. I guess if you are getting drunk, it is much easier to hold a conversation with loud background noise, but for me, it proved impossible. One of my pet hates – bars so noisy you can’t hear yourself think!

The Brontës

My efforts to start reading again have met with mixed success. I recently completed what can only be described as a trashy 21st century novel that a friend had given me for my birthday back in 2006, and last night I thankfully returned to my favourite literary period  – the nineteenth century.

I am a huge fan of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters.  I read Emily Brontë’s classic Wuthering Heights some years back and have also read Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, both of which have been the subject of many large and small screen adaptations. To my knowledge, Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, the last of her published novels, (1853), has never been adapted for the screen and last night I commenced reading it, so no doubt the reason for this lack of movie producer’s interest will become clear in due course. It was such a pleasure to read a book which uses the English language in a way that I can only dream about and I know I am going to savour this little treasure immensely. It is humbling to think that such masterpieces were written without the modern day aids of word processors and such was the chauvinistic state of society in the nineteenth century that the Brontë sisters had to originally publish their novels using male pseudonyms to ensure their acceptance by the reading public.

Tragically, all three ‘writing ‘sisters, plus two more sisters who never made it to puberty, plus one brother, all died under the age of 40, due to such illnesses as Tuberculosis, Typhoid and even  the extreme effects of pregnancy induced  ‘morning sickness’. How times have changed!

The serial comma

On the subject of word processors, and grammar checks, it has long been my understanding that it is not good practice to insert a comma before the word ‘and’ in a sentence. Every time I have tried to do this, my Microsoft grammar check tells me to remove it, which I dutifully do and I have accepted for a long time that this is how it should be. Yet when I started to read ‘Villette’ last night, almost every paragraph contains sentences with commas inserted before the word ‘and’. So what is this all about? If Charlotte Brontë can insert commas in such a way – and she is a literary genius, and was accomplished English teacher to boot, then who I am, humble Mobi, to argue? In future, if I consider it appropriate, I too will once more start putting commas before my ands wherever I feel they assist the flow of a sentence. (Indeed, I have done it twice in this very paragraph).

(NOTE: I have now researched this matter on the internet and have determined that whether you do or don’t put a comma before the previous word and an ‘and’ in a sentence, (apparently known in the grammar trade as a serial comma or the Oxford comma), is entirely optional).

Newspapers and the internet:

Wither the Murdoch Empire?

The world is forever changing, especially since the internet started to make its invasion into every aspect of our daily lives. This is no more apparent than in the decline in fortunes of the print media who plainly will have to ‘adapt or die’.

As long as there still are millions of old fogies, like me, who still prefer to read our newspapers in paper form, then some print media will survive. But it can only be a matter of time before a hand held, printed piece of news, becomes a thing of the past. Unlike me, the younger generation are perfectly happy to read all their news on-line and do not harken to the good old days when they can spread a sheet of printed paper across their lap and devour it from cover to cover. Indeed, even with old fogies like me, I rarely read printed news these days, for a number of reasons, so I too am now obtaining 99% of my news and information from the internet.

It has been an interesting time for print media who, I suspect, have long been exploring the different ways to continue to exist in the internet age, but I doubt that any have yet found a satisfactory solution to this growing problem. Ideally, publishers such as Rupert Murdoch would like to charge for the content that they publish on their websites; but I am convinced that  Murdoch will discover to his cost that the very idea of paying for internet news will never catch on, except, maybe in highly specialised areas. The reason for this is very simple; as long as there is unlimited free access to news provided by alternative sources, no one news outlet is going to convince enough people that it is worth paying for their information. It doesn’t matter how good, clever, sensational, exclusive or how brilliantly written the newspaper may be, the public is simply not interesting in paying for something that with just a click of their mouse, they can obtain elsewhere for nothing.

I truly believe he has got this one wrong. he has recently started to charge for ‘certain content’ and it would appear that he is in two minds about it himself, as he originally announced  plans to start charging for all his newspapers and TV channels back in early 2009 yet it has taken him all this time just to start testing the market with the New York Times. Even if he succeeds in signing up a few paying members, I doubt it will last long. There is simply too much free content out there for him to compete, despite the fact that much of the alternative stuff maybe of inferior quality, it doesn’t make any difference. I don’t believe the public is that discerning and even if they are, they will always find what they want for free.

Again, Murdoch has exhorted all the other print media to join him in charging, but has met with little success. Why?  For the same reason; the other print owners are savvy enough to realise that if they did join Murdoch in trying to charge a fee, the public would still find enough free stuff around to satisfy their hunger for daily news. As far as the print media is concerned, the internet is a Pandoras Box, which once opened, can never be closed.

Murdoch’s best bet, along with all the other media outlets, is to adapt to the new medium, to build their their reputations in providing the best, most reader- friendly news websites, and in doing so, attract as many sponsors as possible.  In the end, they will need to diverse into new, innovative sectors of the media business and beyond or they will truly die within a decade or two.

Of course Murdoch has long since done just that with his Fox TV empire in the USA and BskyB TV empire in the UK. Maybe one day he will simply give up on his print empire….

Newspapers and the internet:

Wither the Bangkok Post?

Then we have the Bangkok Post. Why them? Well let me say first and foremost that I have always been a fan of the Post. I have loyally read this newspaper for many years, including way back during the dark days of successive military regimes, when censorship was at its height, right up to the difficult days of the Thaksin regime, when many brave reporters put their heads above the parapet, despite Thaksin’s deplorable and disproportionate use of the iniquitous libel laws to stifle dissent – especially in the print media. I have always admired many of the ‘commentary’ journalists, who never seem to grow weary of reminding us of all the injustices that continue to be perpetrated in this country and to champion the downtrodden and poorest in Thai society. Through the years they have campaigned against corruption and some of the most evil people in this country, sometimes at risk to their own personal safety. Of course no paper is perfect, but I do take my hat off to some of the admirable work the Bangkok Posts journalists have done over the past four decades that I have been a reader.

I stopped taking the Post about two years ago. The reason was two-fold.  Apart from the fact that I lived out of town and it was proving difficult and expensive to have it delivered, frankly I grew weary of the Thai politics and the polarity of society between the ‘reds and the yellows, etcetera. I just saw lies, exaggerations, and twisting of the facts from all side of the political spectrum and I even grew weary at the Post’s often ineffectual attempts to report and evaluate what was happening. I am not saying that any other newspaper could have done any better, I am simply saying that I just grew weary of bullshit and lies on top of bullshit and lies; probably beyond the wit of anyone to properly analyse. Whereas I used to be a firm supporter of Abhisit and the ‘Yellows’ in the early days of the current conflict, I really don’t know where I sit today. Sure I still believe that Abhisit is probably one of the few good guys in Thai Poliics and that Thaksin is as evil as it is possible to be, but as for their followers – well there are good and bad on both sides, mainly bad I regret to say. How Abhisit can appoint a notoriously corrupt thug like Suthep – a man whose corrupt acts almost singlehandedly brought down the Chuan Leekpai government back in the nineties – as his Deputy PM, is totally beyond me. Maybe Abhisit had no choice , but for me, the general stench of Thai politics is the main reason that I stopped reading the Post. It was the same-same stuff, day after day, week after week and month after month, and it did not make happy reading for someone, such as Mobi, who was suffering from severe depression.

Then we have the strange situation between The Bangkok Post and Thai Visa. For those of you who may not be aware, Thai Visa is the largest English language internet forum in Thailand, quite possibly the largest in South East Asia. It certainly has a huge membership, currently standing at around 117,000 members and as I write, has had over 8,000 active viewers during the past 60 minutes alone. This is large by any standards. My views and criticism of Thai Visa, especially it’s moderation policies, can wait for another day, so today I will just mention it’s valued service in bringing to my /our attention the daily news events in Thailand and also the opinions and investigative work of Thailand’s doughty reporters who work for the print media – local and national.

Up to a couple of years ago, any poster in Thai visa could quote a news item from the Post, after properly accrediting the source and also providing a link to the Post’s own website. But then, for some twisted reason, the Post threatened to sue Thai Visa if they published any material from their newspaper, regardless of how brief the quote and regardless of the fact the Post were given full credit for the piece and a link to their website was provided.

Now I may be wrong, but I am not aware of any other publication that has such a draconian policy on the use of its internet material, as apart from the fact that it is more or less impossible to control, these quotes actually give benefit to the publication in question by providing a link and publicising their name. I still struggle with the Post’s policy on this as I believe it to be extremely foolhardy, and short-sighted. All they succeed in doing is driving countless thousands of potential readers into the arms of the Nation, as the Nation is only too happy to pick up where the Post left off and have forged deep links with Thai Visa and are extremely cooperative in providing breaking news and in-depth articles which are read by thousands and thousands of readers every day. Don’t forget that although Thai Visa has 117,000 members, the number of people who actually log on and read the threads is many, many multiples of this. I will give you an example. Of the 8,000 people who clicked on Thai Visa in the past 60 minutes, only 300 of those were members. The remainder were non-members – i.e. the public at large.

In my humble opinion, in an age where the print media is struggling to survive, The Bangkok Post is truly shooting itself in the foot by refusing to allow such a large internet outlet such as Thai Visa to have access to their content.

I trust that one day I won’t be writing an epilogue for this once great newspaper; a publication which I will always hold in very fond memory.


2 thoughts on “11th April, 2011 – At home by the Lake in East Pattaya.”

  1. Thanks for your comments and good to hear from you.

    The more I watch Aljezeera and compare it to to BBC the more I am impressed with how good the Aljezeera team is – mainly a mixture of extremely eloquent Arabs and Brits, with a few other nationalities thrown in for good measure. All of them highly intelligent, very eloquent and they even look good – and let’s face it this is television, not radio. The BBC fails at all levels by comparison, some of their reporters can’t even speak grammatically correct English, many of them are too old and try to be personalities in their own right (John Simpson, Jeremy Bowen et al) and yet others are simply un-watchable and virtually incomprehensible – like that Canadian screecher – Lise someone or other.

    There was an item on Fox News a while back when O’Reilly was interviewing an American ex Aljezeera news presenter. O’reilly was trying to say that Aljezeera was biased!!! and the interviewee was having none of it, but as usual he was talked over and shouted into submission. Says it all doesn’t it?


  2. Hi Mobi,
    Long time no contact!. I’ve been back in the U.K. for a few months working on something else. I read your comments on Al Jezeera reporting and heartily agree with you on the standard of reportage. They have a damn fine pool of very experienced reporters there. I read the Independent every day and Robert Fisk is a must as their correspondent on the Middle East. Indeed, he was giving a good write up on Al Jezeera last week.

    Mention that station to an American though and they go apoplectic for some reason known only to their own propaganda machine.

    However with a view to the Taliban / Al Queda, et al, I strongly suggest you get hold of a book called ‘Taliban’ by James Ferguson ISBN 978-0-593-06634-8. Even the ex Foreign secretary Douglas Hurd commented on the book ‘The lessons learned by James Ferguson are deeply uncomfortable but cannot be ignored’.

    It is well worth a read on the historical reasons why the world finds itself in the situation it is now. Another book worth a read on Afghanistan and which I’ve had on my shelves since the (very) early 90’s is ‘The Zinky Boys’, a translation from the Russian original and absolutely heartbreaking about the Russian experience in Afghanistan.

    Anyway, glad to see you have found a purpose in life and are moving along with life……..just one foot in front of the other at the moment , eh?.
    Why don’t you call your book ‘Mobi’s Arc’?. Kind of ironic I think!.



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