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Phuket Gazette: Book and film review

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Oliver Stone’s new movie is Savages, a thriller about the drug trade in Laguna Beach, California.

Starring a roll call of Hollywood A-listers – Blake Lively, Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro, John Travolta – the film is based on a crime novel by Don Winslow.

A former Private Investigator in real life, Winslow has written 15 novels and is suddenly being hailed by the likes of James Ellroy, Stephen King and Joseph Wambaugh as the great new master of crime fiction. This would make him the successor to Elmore Leonard who is in his 80s now.

In time for the premiere of the film Savages, Winslow has published a prequel, The Kings of Cool, (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2012, 322pp) to take advantage of the new surge in sales.

The novel opens in Laguna Beach, 2006, and stars two lifelong friends, adept at surfing and beach volleyball, who are total opposites. Ben is the son of Jewish liberals, hippies from the 1960s, owners of a peace and love bookstore. Chon is a Navy Seal, veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, son of a drug dealer and ex-con. Ben doesn’t believe in violence; Chon revels in it.

Chon brought a super-powerful marijuana seed from Afghanistan; Ben developed it. Together they manage a series of grow houses and distributorships that hawk the finest hydroponic buds in the nation.

Ben and Chon are linked by another childhood friend, O (for Orphelia). Petite, blond, beautiful, rich and not particularly bright, she is in love with the both of them and no hard feelings all around.

Now a vicious Mexican cartel wants to muscle in on their action. There lies the nub of the tale. What is extraordinary is how the tale is told: an exuberant, familiar, button-holing narrative voice that make Elmore Leonard seem positively reticent.

The author openly mocks conventional objective third person narration, intruding his own hip, fast-talking voice in extravagant descriptions and rat-a-tat dialogue. Sometimes the story is told in film script fashion, other times in poetic stanzas as:

“Few people ever have to find out what they would do when their whole life has been based on one thing and then they’re offered the other.”

And sometimes there are erratic sputtering rants that are wildly entertaining, as: “Chon thinks that neo-hippies are grungy, pasty-faced-from-vegan diets, patchouli-oil-smoking, Birkenstock-wearing, clogging up sidewalks playing hacky sack, leaning their crappy single-gear bikes against the doors of Starbucks, where they order Tazo green, sitting there for hours and never leave a freaking tip, doing semi-naked yoga in parks so other people have to look at their pale, emaciated bodies, parasites.”

The effect of this jangling, juiced up narrative voice is exhilarating. Don Winslow is
telling a story in a wholly new, original way. Even when you’ve got a thriller set piece when the Navy Seal Chon beats up four guys, it’s told with wit and verve.

The reader is always off balance, especially as the story jumps back and forth from 2006 to 1967, 1976, 1981, 1991. We see how the parents of our current day love trip were laid low by greed, corruption and paranoia. We see how they try to navigate a dangerous world.

Also at play now are lowlife thugs and lawyers, a corrupt DEA agent, a murderous Mexican enforcer and his drug cartel boss, a beautiful and ruthless widow who has survived the murders of nearly all the male members of her family and is poised now for an invasion of California.

While Chon is off in Iraq, Ben fends off the invasion through guile and treachery, explained in another poem:
“The power of no is absolute
Ben has always believed.
A refusal to participate
In wrong,
In evil,
In injustice.
You don’t have to do it.
You just say no.”

Though it’s a relief when Chon returns wounded from Iraq and the bodies begin piling up.

In the end Ben and Chon wind up buying protection from the corrupt DEA agent who tells them: “What I wouldn’t give to be you. You have your youth, money, the cool clothes, the girls. You have it all. You’re kings.”

I slapped the covers shut and immediately picked up Savages.

The book is available in hardback from amazon.com or by ordering through all good bookshops in Phuket.

Film review: The extinct versus the stale
The Dinosaur Project
Starring: Natasha Loring, Matt Kane, Richard Dillane
Director: Sid Bennett
Genre: Adventure
Phuket Release: 23 August

It is a little sad that, only 13 years since The Blair Witch Project, the found footage format for thriller/action movie is already running out of steam. The Dinosaur Project attempts to revive the format but hardly manages to resurrect the titular reptilians.

A team of explorers take off into the Congo in search of the African version of the Loch Ness Monster. After (for no apparent reason other than exceptionally poor piloting) their flight is downed by a bad case of Pterosaurs, the British adventurers must flee for their lives from ever more contrived dinosaur attacks. Thank goodness the leader’s tech-savvy 14-year old son has stowed away, or no one would have had to put up with this nonsense.

You may have missed it, but, yes, that did say British. The Dinosaur Project is a British movie release. Director Sid Bennett appears to have been given the mandate to take every annoying cliché from every blockbuster Hollywood movie of the past two decades and sew them together with a batch of young Brit actors. It would have been great if the Brits had played it for humor:
(“I’m terribly sorry, Carruthers. But a dinosaur appears to be eating my leg.”
“The devil you say, Charmers. How terribly uncouth of him.”)

But they didn’t. So The Dinosaur Project ends up with – a’la Hollywood – the impassioned screaming of people’s names; an annoying kid character; an even more annoying Jar Jar-esque pet dinosaur; and thoroughly disturbing camera shake.

With so much camera jiggle you’d be likely to mistake a delicate shrub for a stegosaurus, the CGI still manages to make the actual monsters look, er… fake.
What is going on with British cinema? In the past five years we have had a rash of terrible attempts by British film-makers to cash in on the Hollywood action plan. Both Flood and Doomsday were notable for trying it the “Hollywood Way”, but both failed to live up to either’s ethos.

Why? When British film-makers are allowed to do it their way, we get excellent comedies, romances, gangster flicks and, yes, even, action adventure movies – look at Attack the Block for instance.

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Cannabis

Cannabis drinks now available in Thailand convenience stores

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Ichitan is now selling cannabis drinks across Thailand. (via IchitanGroup.com)

From darkened back alleys to brightly lit 7-11 aisles, people in Thailand can now get their once-illegal cannabis fix in flavoured drinks at convenience stores and vending machines. The nation’s biggest bottled tea producer Ichitan Group has launched 2 new drinks with terpenes, the compounds that give that ganja smell.

The cannabis drinks Ichitan launched are not aimed at the party crowd like other combinations of drinks and controlled substances – they are less Four Loko at the club and more sipping while curled up with a good book. One is a terpene scented sugar-free camomile green tea and the other is a lemon and terpene infused sweet green tea. Cannabidiol or other psychoactive elements have been left out of the teas.

These cannabis drinks are selling for 30 baht across Thailand in 7-11 stores, malls, conveniences stores, and more than 13,000 vending machines. Ichitan is hoping to sell 500 million baht worth of the teas this year as the first company to nationally mass market cannabis products. Their CEO said the “urban new generation” is their target demographic and that being first to market is an important strategy.

Thailand first legalised registering medicinal marijuana in 2019, but in January restrictions were loosened to open the gates to various products and usage. Restaurants and cafes sprung up cooking hemp dishes, and bars created hemp-infused cocktails. People can now get a permit to grow hemp and manufacture and sell cannabis products. Thai law still treats hemp and cannabis differently as hemp is almost completely free of THC and is traditionally used for making clothes, rope, paper and similar products from its strong fibres.

Ichitan admits that the cannabis used in their drinks aren’t fully legalised yet, though they expect the entire supply chain and process to be approved soon as the cannabis legalisation trend grows around the world. Farming is still only allowed with strict government observation, and the narcotic use of ganja is only allowed for cultivation, research and medical use.

Recreational use is not permitted in Thailand yet, though 16 states in the US allow it, and Mexico has legislation pending. Medicinal marijuana is legal in 50 countries already.

Covid-19 has delayed a surge of cannabis progress in Thailand, with businesses on lockdown and a Bangkok cannabis convention postponed from April 19-20 (4/20 – cannabis enthusiast’s magic number) to July 19-20, as well as a seminar on cannabis extracts cancelled yesterday.

But in Thailand, the government sees huge potential, with MFC Asset Management planning Thailand’s first hemp-related mutual fund with expectations of over 17% annual growth over the next 5 years. Farmers could grow hemp and cannabis with large profits, and the Thai government is even eying a tourism boost for medical tourism and just plain curious travellers.

SOURCE: Nikkei Asia

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Cannabis may ease lung inflammation from Covid-19, study

Neill Fronde

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Stock photo by Washarapol D Bin Yo Jundang for Pexels

Cannabis may help ease and reduce lung inflammation for Covid-19 patients, according to a recent study. Researchers in the study claim the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, cannabinol, or CBD, has anti-inflammatory properties.

More research should be done on how CBD and treating severe lung inflammation from the coronavirus, according to researchers from University of Nebraska and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute indicates. Their recent peer-reviewed article in the latest issue of Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity investigates cannabis’ anti-inflammatory qualities.

Covid-19 can cause inflammation that leads to pneumonia which can clog lungs and cause breathing difficulties, an often deadly symptom of the coronavirus. This is why researchers are emphasising anti-inflammatory treatments for infected patients.

“There are drug treatments like Tocilizumab that clears patients’ lungs with a 90% success rate, but the side effects are harsh, including the risk of coronary artery disease and pancreas inflammations. Cannabis may be a key solution since it doesn’t carry such severe negative side effects.”

The CBD treatment made from cannabis does not carry the same effects of THC or smoking marijuana would, though THC has also been shown to be anti-inflammatory but is with more side effects. Cannabis already carries FDA approval, even being used for children with intractable epilepsy.

Aside from anti-inflammatory use, CBD also reduces several factors that contribute to severe Covid-19 cases and also increases proteins that prevent the virus from replicating by activating immune cells. Previous studies with asthmatic animals showed CBD reduced airway inflammation as well as pulmonary fibrosis, which can be an after-effect of Covid-19 damaging and scarring lung tissue causing breathing problems.

The cannabis study on lung inflammation shows that doses up to 1500 milligram a day were safe for up to 2 weeks. The researchers also noted that as an added bonus CBD reduces anxiety, something very useful for the stress of life during a pandemic. Helpfully, cannabis was recently legalised in Thailand and the government has been drafting regulations on importing it.

While the article doesn’t directly link cannabis as a treatment for Covid-19, the evidence on CBD’s effect on lung inflammation, a dangerous symptom of coronavirus, makes further research worthwhile. The researchers urge further research to experiment if cannabis can be directly incorporated into Covid-19 treatment to help with inflammation and anxiety too.

SOURCE: Forbes

 

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Thailand

Thailand drafting new regulations for cannabis and hemp seeds

Thaiger

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Photo by Rick Proctor for Unsplash

A new regulations for cannabis and hemp seeds imports is in the works by Thailand’s Agriculture Department. With certain parts of the cannabis plant now off the narcotics list, many are tapping into the market for CBD, or cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive component in hemp and cannabis.

With the rising demand for hemp and cannabis, the department is revising regulations to make the rules more clear, according to department’s director general, Pichet Wiriyapapha. Those importing cannabis and hemp seeds will also need to get permission from the department. He says they plan to announce the new plan on cannabis and hemp seed regulations in May.

“Now we have only four strains of hemp developed for higher fibre yield, but not for the strain for higher CBD that is currently required for cosmetics and healthcare products. That is why we do need to actively develop such a strain to respond to the high demand in the market.”

CBD is known for its relaxing effects. Although there is still little research to back the claims, many say CBD can lesson anxiety and depression as well as provide relief for muscle pain and arthritis. In Thailand, CBD is growing in popularity, but parts of the cannabis plant high in the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, are still classified as a Category 5 narcotic.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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