Hubristic Mega-stars and Tin-pot Dictators!

Mobi-Snaps: Mobi’s Bavarian Home

Back in 2004, I moved to what I can only describe as a ‘Bavarian style’ house in the heart of Bangkok.

It had been designed and built by by an elderly Thai gentleman,  a retired doctor who was also a hopeless and occasionally aggressive alcoholic.

He lived next door to his architectual ‘masterpiece’, and when I moved in, it hadn’t been occupied for a considerable period of time, and was in a bad state of repair. The good doc spent my 3 months deposit in fixing everything up, and my then-wife, Dang, and I spent a year there before moving to my new house in Pattaya.

I have not been back since but I doubt very much whether the house still exists. By now I am sure it has long since been swept away by the aggressive commercial developments that have been going full pelt  at the rear of Soi 31 on Sukhumvit Road. The land must have been worth millions.

Anyway, here is the interesting building, as was, where my ex- wife and I whiled away many drunken hours, fighting each other for all we were worth…

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Mobi-Babble

Another week, another dollar… I wish it were so!

In my case it’s more like another week, and another lost dollar.

My thoughts continue to be dominated by the news that I may have lost some or all of my savings, and I seem to be slowly turning into a bit of a manic depressive. Some days I feel as high as a  kite, and other days I feel very low.

The reality is that I must count my blessings.

For now, I have sufficient money to get through the next six months or so, and if I somehow manage to sell my house, I can keep going for considerably longer. I also think I have enough cash to start a little business, which I will  turn my mind to seriously when I return from the UK in August.

(In case you are wondering, the air tickets to the UK have already been bought, and  are non-refundable. Although the trip will involve a fair bit of expense, I am hopeful it can be  done ‘on the cheap’, as my family will put us up and, hopefully feed us…)

Then there is Noo. She is an absolute gem and quite frankly, if I had to choose between being alone  and having a savings account full of money and  being broke but with Noo to take care of me, then I would choose the latter every time.

All her family are aware of my precarious financial situation and all of them have told her that under no circumstances should she leave me, which of course I know she never will.

Somehow, I have a feeling that we will weather this latest crisis and that we will all muddle through. The news on my delinquent savings remains reasonably positive, although there is little doubt that I will not see any money for at least a year or two.

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It has been insufferably hot in Pattaya for many weeks now with day time temperatures climbing into the high thirties and even at night it has been in the low-mid thirties. Relative humidity has also been in the ninety percentiles. Not very nice!

Then, two days ago, the heavens opened and at long last it rained. From memory, apart from maybe the odd, very brief shower, I think it was the first real rain we have seen since last November.

Yesterday we had another heavy shower during the day, and last night there was another thunderstorm. It has now generally overcast and the temperatures have plunged to the more tolerable high twenties. Tropical storms are forecast to continue for at least the next few days, and long may they last.

But even the advent of storms in early-mid April is far from normal. Typically, the weather stays dry until May- June, but we don’t usually have very hot weather starting as early as February, like we did this year.

The weather seems to be all over the place and there is little doubt that climate change is rearing its ugly head.

Anyway, as today is the first day of Songkran – Thai New Year – maybe the stormy weather will put a dampener on the manic water celebrations. I somehow doubt it.

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And now for something completely different.

About 12 years or so ago, after I had retired from my city job and completed my first volume of short stories,  which were published as ‘Tales from Thailand’, I tried my hand at a short-ish children’s fantasy story, or novelette.

Although it was primarily targeted at a young, pre-teenage readership, the novelette turned into an adventure story that contained allegories and satire that that I thought might also amuse children’s parents.

Like most of my early work, the printed and ‘Word’ data documents have long since disappeared without trace. I assumed that the text had all been erased from all my hard disk memories.

Imagine my surprise a few weeks ago; when I was going through some old papers that I had kept in storage, I came across some floppy disks which contained most of my old work.

No longer having any computer which contains a floppy disk drive, a good friend lent me a USB drive and adaptor, and I have been able to recover some long lost manuscripts.

The recovered data includes: the text of my first, unpublished novel; the original text for my published short stories; the text of another short story, which is a sort of ‘whodunit’ and  last but not least, the text of my ‘children’s novelette’, a work of some 20,000 words.

I am resolved to publish some of this work in my blog over the coming months, and to start the ball rolling I will be publishing the children’s story mid-week. It has undergone a bit of a ‘spring clean’ but is essentially the same story I wrote back in the early 2000’s. 

When I re-read it, even though ‘I say it as shouldn’t’, it brought a few smiles to my lips, so I do hope that you will also find it amusing. It is also completely ‘clean’ and it is suitable reading for kids from ages 8-11. The satire is mostly of a political nature and has no sexual innuendos or suggestive ‘double-entendres’.

I think I will spend the next few weeks or so sorting and publishing these long lost manuscripts in my blog, before embarking upon a new literary effort. I’m not getting any younger and I want to do some more meaningful creative writing before Mad Cows’ disease sets in.

In case anyone is wondering, I haven’t heard a dicky bird from the publisher who requested the manuscript of  my novel, ‘A Lust for Life’.

I guess these things take time, or maybe it is sitting in a corner somewhere, gathering dust….

 

Mobi-Bytes

Hubristic Mega-stars and Tin-pot Dictators

A few days ago I watched an HBO film about Beyonce – her life, her family, her highs and lows, and of course her amazing career in the entertainment firmament, as told in her own words and as mainly filmed by her friends and family.

She came across as an intelligent, sensible, hard-working and totally dedicated young lady, who has been determined to succeed no matter what, while still maintaining the ‘common touch’ with her fans and production cohorts.

But let us not forget that the film was totally under her control, being the producer, presenter and God-knows what else besides, so she would come across as a pretty nice person, wouldn’t she? Not that I’m saying that she isn’t…..

But I wonder at the hubristic motives that prompted her to make the film in the first place. OK I am sure she made spade loads of money from it, but she can make that kind of money any day of the week by holding a live performance or releasing a new song.

Personally I don’t think Beyonce’s voice is God’s gift to popular music and in the movie ‘Dreamgirls’,  she was totally outclassed and out-sung in every sense of the word in by American Idol’s own – the fabulous Jennifer Hudson.

Having said that, I think she does do incredibly well with the voice God has given her and her vocal pyrotechnics seem to know no bounds. There is no doubt that she is a great singer by any standards – pitch perfect, with an original, endearing tone and with such passion in her voice that it can bring grown men to tears.

Add to this her unquestioned beauty, her unbelievable dancing ability and her sheer zest and talent in putting together show-stopping production numbers, few could deny her mega star status.

I wrote about Beyonce back in January when she caused a storm by admitting that she had mimed the American National anthem at Obama’s inauguration.

Her explanation that she wanted the rendering to be flawless, which it might not have been, had she sung live, was understandable, but in my humble opinion it was a total betrayal of the integrity of the occasion.

It would seem that her personal vanity got the better of her. In her rarefied, mega-star world, it was better to pass a huge deception on the American public than be caught singing a less than perfect rendition.

She just didn’t get that this was fundamentally the wrong thing to do – and I doubt she ever will.

Now in April we learn that she and her rapper husband, Jay-Z, have been whooping it up in Cuba, in contravention of America’s long held ban on their citizens visiting Cuba, purely for pleasure.

Now don’t get me wrong – I happen to believe – like the rest of the world -that this ban is ridiculous and probably counter-productive. US citizens may travel to Russia, Vietnam, and even North Korea and Iran with their government’s blessing, but not Cuba. It doesn’t make sense and simply exposes the hypocrisy of American foreign policy.

I’m not going to to and assert that Cuba isn’t guilty of gross human rights abuses and has literally held the majority of its population in poverty and desolation for decades – of course it has. But so have many other sovereign states in this world of ours, where there is no such restrictions on US travel.

And has this ban on travel made one iota of difference to the despots who run Cuba? You know the answer.

But the law is the law – and clearly Beyonce and Jay-Z consider themselves above the law which is simply there for mere mortals.

If they had travelled to Cuba, and in a subtle way had  highlighted some of the injustices of the regime, then I believe they would have had a lot of supporters. Or even if they had indulged in some form of genuine ‘cultural exchange’ which is permitted by the US government, then I doubt anyone would have blinked an eye lid.

To make matters worse, upon their return, Jay-Z released a new rap song in which he stated that the couple had received White House permission for their trip.

The Whitehouse was obliged to make an embarrassing denial and admit it was the Treasury Department that had indeed granted them a licence for a ‘cultural visit….’

Their trip was a ‘jolly’, from start to finish, and they just went there to have a good time and be fawned over by a new set of fans from a country in which few of their fellow American artists ever have to opportunity to cast their spell over.

In other words, it was a huge sop to their over inflated egos – pure and simple.

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Then we have the wonderful and oh so charitable Madonna, an incredibly rich mega-star who, regrettably, is well past her ‘sell by date’.

She seemed to think she had a divine right to go to one of Africa’s poorer countries and pluck two babies from an orphanage, ride rough shod over the local adoption laws and spirit them back to America as her new children. Or, more likely, her new pampered poodles – something for her to play with in her old age.

Madonna has claimed to have built no less than 10 schools in the impoverished Malawi – presumably as a price for them allowing her to take two babies out of the country – but even this claim has now come under serious question. The Malawi education minister has stated that Madonna was building classrooms, not entire schools, in the country.

“She has built classrooms at existing schools… really it’s a difference in terminology,” the minister said.

It now transpires that Madonna’s Malawi charity, ‘Raising Malawi’, had spent a grand total of $400,000 on building  10 school blocks which allowed some 4,000 children, who had been learning under trees, to be taught in classrooms.

Sounds pretty impressive? Well yes and no. To the likes of you and I, $400k is a load of money. But if you consider that she is worth in excess of 650 million dollars, and is rapidly heading towards billionaire status, 400,000 dollars is the common folks’ equivalent of the price of a Sunday lunch.  

Building 10 Schools would appear to be a massive investment –  at the very least an investment of several million dollars, surely?…but 400K?

Come on Madonna, can’t you do better than that?

Madonna thinks she is such a God-like mega-star and that her investment of 400,000, (in return for 2 babies), gives her the divine right to play fast and loose with the family of Malawi’s President. She actually thought that she could go into a tin-pot third world African nation and do what she wanted.

Well, it transpires that firing the President’s sister from a prominent position in her charity wasn’t exactly her smartest – or finest  – hour.

 The American queen of pop’s relationship with Malawi had already soured  with publication of a report accusing many of the local staff in her ‘Raising Malawi’ charity of financial impropriety in connection with the adoption of her two babies.

Now, after her exaggerated claims about building 10 schools surfaced, a statement, was issued from the President’s office which said:

‘Madonna is a musician who desperately thinks she must generate recognition by bullying state officials instead of playing decent music on the stage. She apparently wants the Malawian government to roll out a red carpet and blast the 21-gun salute in her honour. She thinks she deserves to be revered with state grandeur and needs to learn the decency of telling the truth.’

Hmmm… sounds about right….Madge….

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Last but by no means least, we have the utterly pathetic sight of former NBA mega-star having a right old ‘knees up’ with the leader of one of the most vicious and cruel regimes of the 21st Century.

This is the regime that has scared the shit out of its Asian neighbours and the world at large by threatening to unleash  a nuclear holocaust.

I refer of course to the recent trip made by Dennis Rodman to North Korea where he was wined, dined and entertained by Kim Jong Un, one of the most feared men on this planet.

What on earth possessed this ageing sports star to prostitute himself in such a stupid and unpatriotic manner?

Didn’t anyone tell him about the regime’s excesses, where anyone who doesn’t smile or clap their hands on cue is locked up without trial; and where starving peasants are left to die in the fields whenever China or the USA cut back on their aid?

I wonder if dear old Dennis feels a bit better now he has hit the headlines with his ill-advised trip?

I wonder if he told his mate Kim that he better not try anything funny….

The hubris of these scary products of our overblown, outrageous celebrity culture seems to know no bounds.

 

Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead.

When I returned to the UK in 1983 from my travels around the world, and in particular my  8 year sojourn in Thailand, ‘The Iron Lady’ had been in power for some 4 years.

I have no desire to join the ranks of either those who are extolling her virtues from the roof tops or are celebrating the death of supposedly one of the vilest and execrable prime ministers that the UK has ever had.

Too many millions of words on this matter have already been expressed in print, radio and television and internet, so my paltry efforts would add little or serve to convince the totally polarised pro and anti -Thatcher brigades to change their views.

Suffice to say that I lived in the UK throughout the years when Thatcher took on the unions (and won), almost single-handedly turned Britain from a fourth-rate economic power back to the top table, put wealth, property and share ownership into the hands of the ‘common people’; and strode the then ‘cold war’ world like a colossus – as an equal partner to the likes of Gorbachev and Reagan and Bush the elder.

Anyone who seriously tries to deny all this is simply denying history.

Amongst many other things, she has been accused of being a racist – and she probably was; of being totally merciless when it came to her confrontation with the miners – and she probably was; of doing little or nothing to advance the cause of feminism – and she probably didn’t…. and so on and so forth, ad infinitem.

The point is that you could lay similar charges at the feet of such luminaries as Churchill (who was an out-and-out racist, and committed multiple war-crimes), Gladstone, (who had a penchant for ‘fallen women’), and countless other statesmen who have all helped to shape our nation, from the two Pitts, right back to Robert Walpole.

Most, if not all great statesmen/stateswomen are flawed in some way, and Thatcher was no exception.

But there is little doubt that when the last of  those who personally suffered from Thatcher’s most ruthless policies have joined ‘The Wicked Witch’ on the other side, that the late 21st century historians will acknowledge the incredible contribution she made to ‘This Sceptred Isle’ at a very difficult cross roads in our country’s long and chequered history.

 I believe it is by no means an exaggeration to assert that if Thatcher had lost the 1983 election to the labour Party, and/or  lost to Neil Kinnock in 1987, the economic and unemployment situation in Britain today would not be unlike Greece – without the sun, picturesque islands and Zorba the Greek and Nana Mouskouri look-alikes to help us to forget all our troubles.

But yet again, it would seem that ‘Our Dave’ has totally miss-read the mood of the people and the likely impact in today’s ‘Twitter-world’ of the death of one of the most divisive figures in modern UK political history.

Frankly, even a fool could have predicted the furore that would erupt, once news of her death crept into the minds and hearts of the bleeding hearted liberals and left wingers.

Churchill died in a different age, where all the newspapers were more or less respectful to the establishment, and there was no internet. Anyone who dared to criticise him after his death would have been regarded as a traitor, and probably hung drawn and quartered. (Well not quite, but you know what I mean).

Neither the situation as it then existed, nor the current situation are ideal.

But democracy moves on and it is better to have a vociferous minority who have the right to spit their hate and venom on Facebook and Twitter and hold celebratory ‘death parties’ throughout the land than have the state try to suppress such activities.

I deplore what they are saying and doing, but defend their inalienable right to do it.

But why didn’t Cameron understand this? His first mistake was to re-call Parliament. He could have eulogised without the need to say it in The House of Commons. That could have been done later when parliament returned from the Easter recess.

As it is, all he succeeded in doing was stirring up the anti-Thatcher sentiment, particularly amongst those MP’s who hated her and refused to attend the special session. So the real news was about the anti-Thatcher politicians and their twisted accounts of her wicked term as prime minister, rather than news of a government paying respectful tributes to a great leader.

Similarly, the ‘almost’ state funeral at St Pauls Cathedral next week is a dreadful mistake. Mark my words, there’s going to be trouble. Whatever happens, the opponents of Thatcher are going to have a field day, ramming down the public’s throat what a nasty, wicked piece of work the Iron Lady really was.

Is this what Cameron and the country really want?

It would have been far better to have a very quiet, private, low key funeral in some small but dignified church, maybe in rural England, and follow it up with a large service of remembrance, one year hence, when all the fuss had died down and the fanatical hot- heads had forgotten all about her and moved onto new, deceased targets to excoriate. 

In re-calling parliament and holding a massive semi-state funeral along the lines of the late Princess Di, our Dave is asking for trouble.

The great thing about Thatcher was that she had the courage of her convictions and wasn’t afraid to break the mould or her county’s traditions if she believed it to be in the best interest of her country.

The trouble with our Dave is that he has no real convictions and is scared of his own shadow. Is it really in the best interests of a divided country, still struggling in recession to rub their noses into celebrating the life of someone who, within memory, so polarised society?

Woe is us….

A post script

I was just putting this little article to bed when I happened across this piece in Saturday’s Daily telegraph:-

…A student living  in Oxford, is the architect of a plan to disrupt the funeral on Wednesday of Margaret Thatcher by lining the streets by St Paul’s Cathedral and turning their backs as the casket passes.

He hopes the stunt will be witnessed by millions of television viewers around the world. He said he is prepared to be arrested. More than 3,000 people have joined a Facebook group advertising the event, dubbed ‘Maggie’s farewell party’.

The protesters wish to “get their money’s worth” from the funeral, which will be paid for in part by the state, and have a “right jolly knees up”.

One attendee promised “civil unrest”. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Francis, whose parents live in a £700,000 home in Royal Tunbridge Wells, said he hoped the demonstration would be peaceful – but said mourners had brought any disturbance upon themselves by holding a public funeral rather than burying the late Prime Minister in private.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “I entirely support that her mourners should be allowed to grieve in peace.

 It would seem that I am more prophetic than even I had previously imagined.

 

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