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Phuket Books: An English literary institution

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Books: An English literary institution | The Thaiger

PHUKET: The Man Booker Prize is a big thing for the Brits. The Americans used to have the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction till that turned insufferably stodgy and was eclipsed by the National Book Award. But it still does not compare to the Man Booker.

A great deal of fanfare goes into announcing the long list of candidates, then the short list, then the winner itself. There’s also the prize money of 50,000 pounds (1.5mn Thai baht), a boon to many an impoverished novelist.

The prize will also make your name for life. I’ve read half the 44 prize-winning novels and all but a few deserved it.

One of these few is the 2011 winner, The Sense of an Ending (Vintage Books, London, 2011, 150pp) by Julian Barnes.

I’m no authority on Julian Barnes. Previously I’d only read one of his 13 works of fiction. Barnes was shortlisted three times but failed to win.

A contemporary of previous winners Martin Amis and Ian McEwan, perhaps he became a sentimental favorite the fourth time around for his slight novella.

The tale revolves around an epistemological question: how do I know what I know? How can I trust my memory, especially if there are no documents to support it? The text is liberally peppered with related questions and this becomes tiresome. The narrator disputes the idea that memory equals events plus time:

“But it’s all much odder than that. Who was it that said that memory is what we thought we’d forgotten? And it ought to be obvious to us that time doesn’t act like a fixative, rather as a solvent. But it’s not convenient – it’s not useful – to believe this; it doesn’t help to get on with our lives; so we ignore it.”

The story is a common enough one for the author’s generation and starts in a secondary school in London in the early 1960s. The narrator, Tony Webster, and his two friends Alex and Colin, yearn to escape their grubby middle class lives for the real, true, important things that:

“Literature [is] all about: love, sex, morality, friendship, happiness, suffering, betrayal, adultery, good and evil, heroes and villains, guilt and innocence, ambition, power, justice, revolution, war, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, the individual against society, success and failure, murder, suicide, death [and] God.”

The trio are joined by a fourth, a newcomer named Adrian Finn who greatly outshines them.

He leaves his history teacher dumbfounded by observing, “History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.”

At Bristol College, Tony has his heart broken by his first love Veronica Ford who is ambitious and conniving enough to leave him for Adrian Finn who has won a scholarship to Cambridge.

After graduation, he goes off to the US to wander about for six months on his first real adventure and his second romance with an American girl named Annie.

Then, he decides to return to England and lead an absolutely normal life: job, marriage, daughter, divorce and retirement into weary and whimsical reflections like this nugget:

“Just as all political and historical change sooner or later disappoints, so does adulthood. So does life.

“Sometimes I think the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down, by proving, however long it takes, that life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

The only drama after his return from America is that he learns that Adrian Finn has committed suicide. Thus ends part one and you think: This won the Man Booker Prize?

There are surprises in part two. Tony receives a 500 pound inheritance from Sarah Ford, Veronica’s mother, whom he only met once at their stifling home in Kent. She also leaves him Adrian Finn’s diary, but Veronica has stolen it, so Tony must track down his old love and unravel the mystery of Adrian’s history that ended in suicide.

More surprises are in store. So the shock of his life in the end springs from the dead horse that Tony has a history of beating. But the novella still doesn’t deserve the Man Booker.

The book is available from amazon.com or by ordering through the main bookshops in Phuket.

— James Eckardt

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Thailand

Air Asia apologises for its “Get off in Thailand” promotion

The Thaiger

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Air Asia apologises for its “Get off in Thailand” promotion | The Thaiger

AirAsia has now apologised following an advertising campaign using the phrase “Get off in Thailand” was posted around the city of Brisbane to promote the airline’s direct route to Bangkok.

Collective Shout, a campaign movement against the objectification of women says the marketing gaff promoted sex tourism in Thailand.

Melinda Liszewski, a campaigner at Collective Shout accused the airline of “promoting sex tourism.”

Air Asia has responded… “AirAsia takes community feedback extremely seriously and the airline sincerely apologises for any inconvenience caused from recent concerns raised.”

“AirAsia can confirm the advertising campaign has ended and we instructed our media partners to have the advertising removed as soon as possible today from all locations.”

Brisbane City councillor Kara Cook branded the campaign an “absolute disgrace” and said “it should never have appeared on our city’s streets.”

The Australian regulator Ad Standards said while it had not received any complaints about the advertising on the bus, it had received one complaint about the same advertisement on a billboard.

The same ad is still on a billboard at Brisbane Airport, however the airport tweeted on Monday afternoon that it was being removed as a priority.

AirAsia began a new direct flight route between Brisbane and Bangkok in February this year.

An AirAsia spokesman said the campaign had since ended and the last advertisements were being removed around the city.

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Thai Life

STUDY: Daily marijuana use increases risk of psychotic disorder

The Thaiger

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STUDY: Daily marijuana use increases risk of psychotic disorder | The Thaiger

The legalisation of medical-use marijuana continues to sweep across the globe, recently in Thailand where the roll-out and enactment of practical uses of the new legislation are underway.

But this spread of a new legal credibility of the drug continues whilst possible health risks (or benefits) are not fully understood. Properly medically supervised or scientifically conducted studies continue to come out weekly with varied results about the benefits or dangers of long-term cannabis use.

According to new research published in ‘Lancet Psychiatry‘, a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal, people who use cannabis daily, as well as those who use high-potency weed, may be three times more likely to develop psychotic disorder than never-users.

The new evidence is consistent with previous experiments that suggest heavy use and high THC concentration cannabis – a 10% concentration of THC (the psychoactive substance within cannabis) or higher – can be harmful to mental health.

Dr. Marta Di Forti, lead author and a clinician scientist at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London said the ‘Psychotic disorder’ was precisely what was studied.

“We are talking about people who meet diagnostic criteria and come to the attention of mental health services to receive treatment for psychosis. So they have to have symptoms of psychosis across the spectrum – hallucination, delusions – that have lasted at least for a week.”

Currently, medical cannabis is legal in most European countries, though recreational use is only legal in Netherlands, Czech Republic and Spain (in certain situations). Meanwhile many other countries continue to discuss legalisation.

Di Forti and her co-authors pf the paper looked at data from five countries in Europe… UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and France. Brazil was also included in the sample where cannabis is illegal.

They found 901 patients with a first-time episode of psychosis over a five-year period and compared them to 1,237 matched non-patients.

Daily use of cannabis was more common among patients with psychosis compared to the controls, they found. About 30% of patients reported using cannabis daily compared to just 7% of non-patient controls. And use of high potency cannabis was also more common among patients than controls – 37% compared to 19%.

The study results do not provide enough information for her to say “use only this amount, only this often” to remain safe.

At this stage, the paper estimates one in five new cases of psychosis may be linked to daily cannabis use, and one in 10 cases linked to use of high potency cannabis.

You can read the full report in Lancet Psychiatry.

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Air Pollution

Chiang Mai ‘s tourism holds up despite smoke and smog

The Thaiger

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Chiang Mai ‘s tourism holds up despite smoke and smog | The Thaiger

Chiang Mai’s current poor air quality and smoke haze is raising concerns on the potential impact on tourism as Thailand’s Songkran water festival approaches.

Smog has been a yearly occurrence in Northern Thailand, but this year the situation appears to be the worst with Chiang Mai topping the air pollution ranking and the media tracking daily results.

But La-iad Bungsrithong, president of the Thai Hotels Association (Northern Chapter), says there appears to be a short-term decline in the market.

However, she attributes the current performance to March being part of the traditional low season rather than the pollution, adding that there has been no booking cancellation from leisure or MICE guests.

The Songkran festival typically sees leisure demand for Chiang Mai from South-east Asia, Europe, China and Thailand. According to La-iad, room occupancy in April last year was 65 per cent, reaching 85 per cent during the Songkran period (April 12-14).

She expects similar figures for Songkran this year but also greater competition arising from new hotels around Chiang Mai and Airbnb.

Similarly, a spokesperson of Standard tour, Somchai Sandnee, said the company’s business has not been affected by the air pollution. Chinese tourists are less perturbed by smog issues than political turmoil and recent events such as the boat accident in Phuket last year, Somchai pointed out.

Chotechuang Soorangura, associate managing director of NS Travel & Tours, also says he doesn’t see the smog having an impact on sales.

“The smog is considered an annual situation and our company always (issues) an advice to customers. In the case where customers really want to visit Chiang Mai, we will suggest they limit their stays in the city in favour of other provinces instead such as Sukhothai,” Chotechuang explained.

SOURCE: ttgasia.com

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