Archive for April, 2014

Thhai Days: Bangkok magicians

April 30, 2014

Hugh Paxton’s Blog has encountered many things that are surprising. But nothing quite like this!

And, I didn’t have a camera and I really, really wished I had.

I was carrying a bulky box of (unfortunately broken) ancient Chinese ceramics and plastic squids and rays and lots of stuff in the box sent by my beloved brother and my goal was to buy onions and four dragons made out of dismembered rope to send to family in England.

And then go home and forget!

I was carrying the package and Bangkok was unruly. The weather surged from hot, to violently windy, then thudded with thunder, then got very hot, and just to confuse matters further surged back to hot with the possibility of a serious bout of raining. The sort of rain that makes you very glad you are wearing a hat and reminds you to buy a new umbrella.

Through the impending storm came a figure.

It was wearing black. Had lost its front teeth. The sun glasses were bigger than its nose could happily support. And it was wearing a British policeman’s helmet. There was also a beard, a dangling cigarette, a delighted smile and I thought “Oh Gawd, it’s the magician!”

OK. The magician wasn’t looking like anything you would like your daughter to marry. But Thai magicians are like that.

And his appearance was not just bizarre but rather…what’s the word for it???…magical!

He had a dragon with a wire sticking out of it.

“Beer?” he suggested. “I love you! Put this on his arm!”

Robin, my sister’s boy has broken his arm, I hadn’t mentioned it, hadn’t even talked to this freakish thing but he seemed to know more about it than I did.

I said “Thank you!”

He yelled “It’s free for him!” and then I bought him a packet of cigarettes and gave him two hundred baht to pay his dentist (if he has a dentist, which I doubt) then he dodged off through angry traffic and Japanese tourists fled at the sight.

I really wish I had had a camera!

And I forgot to buy any onions!

Let’s hope his magic works!

Hugh in Bangkok!

From Sandra in Myanmar: ramblings from the holiday

April 30, 2014

Hugh Paxton’s Blog always enjoys Sandra’s ramblings. She rambles and when I read her ramblings I feel I’ve rambled with her! Her time in Burma (Myanmar) is almost done. A brief visit here to enjoy a bit of Bangkok monsoon season action and my increasingly spectacular cooking and mozzie population explosion then away she will go. For a bit of rambling in her English homeland.

Over to her!

Hi Hugh,

I have not been reading too many blogs, I have no internet at home and have been away for three weeks with Louie.

I hope to come back to Bangkok on 9th May. It would be great if I can stay with you guys for my final trip before I leave Asia for good in June. Time seems to be flying by.

I hope you are all okay?

Sending lots of love


Ramblings from Yangon April 2014.docx

Brigitte’s Pick! How The Heck Did They Make This Film !!! BRILLIANT

April 29, 2014

How the heck do you see this film? Hugh Paxton’s Blog has pressed buttons and this brilliant film hasn’t made an appearance. My computer, my incompetence, both probably to blame!

Let me know how the heck they made the film if you can see the film!

From: Brigitte Alpers []
To: Hugh Paxton
Subject: FW: How The Heck Did They Make This Film !!! BRILLIANT

Amazing stuff!

> >

How The Heck Did They Make This Film !!! BRILLIANT

April 29, 2014

From: Brigitte Alpers []
Sent: Monday, April 28, 2014 9:42 PM
To: Hugh Paxton
Subject: FW: How The Heck Did They Make This Film !!! BRILLIANT

Amazing stuff!

> >

Briggitte’s Pick FW: World Facts

April 29, 2014

Hugh Paxton’s Blog says Oh Gawd! Brigittes’s Pick is Back! I thought somebody had shot her!

Subject: FW: World Facts

Depending upon your definition, there are approximately 196 countries in the world as of this writing.

Here are 25 things that you wouldn’t believe about some of these countries.

25: Covers the Most Time Zones France

If you count everything, including overseas territories, then France claims the title by covering 12 time zones.
The United States would be the runner-up with 11 and then Russia with 9.


24: Most Likely to Disappear Beneath the Waves Maldives

With all the talks of global warming and rising sea levels, it is the residents of the Maldives that have the greatest reason to fear.
With an average height of around 1.8 meters above sea level their nation is the lowest on Earth.


23: Most Overweight Population Nauru

With over 95% of its population being overweight, the small island nation of Nauru is by far the fattest country on Earth.
Its obesity epidemic is primarily attributed to the importation of western fast food
that coincided with an increased standard of living in the 20th century
due to the global popularity of its phosphate exports.

Here I thought it was Mississippi!


22: Roads Made of Coral Guam

Because Guam doesn’t have any natural sand, but rather coral,
the island nation makes its asphalt using a mix of ground coral and oil rather than importing sand from abroad.


21: Most Sheep for Every Person Falkland Islands ( UK )

With only about 3,000 people the Falkland Islands are home to approximately half-a million-sheep.
With about 350 sheep per person, not surprisingly, wool is a major export.


20: Oldest Sovereign State Egypt

This largely depends upon your definition of a sovereign state
but if you are going by first acquisition of sovereignty then Egypt would be the first country in the world
to achieve sovereignty based upon the formation of the first dynasty in 3100 BC.


19: Most Lakes in the World Canada

With over three million lakes, 9% of Canadian territory is actually fresh water
and over 60% of all the lakes in the world are found within its borders.


18: Least Likely Place to Meet Your Neighbour Mongolia

At 4 people per square mile Mongolia is the least densely populated country on Earth.
Compare this to the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong that has the highest population density in the world
with 340,000 people per square mile.


17: Largest Number of Tanks Russia

It is a strange title to hold, but Russia has by far the most tanks of any army in the world (21,000).
Unfortunately for the motherland, most of these outdated machines are tributes to its past,
and although outnumbered (16,000), the United States has a much more advanced tank inventory.


16: The Land of No Rivers Saudi Arabia

Sounds a bit strange doesn’t it?
For a country as big as Saudi Arabia there has to be at least some sort of flowing water.
Well, there isn’t.
Most of their fresh water comes from desalinization plants or underground reservoirs.


15: Youngest Population of Any Country Niger

Generally the world’s youngest country is determined by calculating the portion of the population that is younger than 15.
Presently it is Niger that holds this distinction with roughly half of its population having barely reached puberty (49%).


14: Most Diverse Country in the World India

In almost every category, culturally, economically, climatically, racially, linguistically, ethnically, and religiously
India is either the most diverse countries in the world, or the runner-up.


13: Fastest Disappearing Nation Ukraine

With a natural decrease in population of 0.8% annually,
between now and 2050 Ukraine is expected to lose around 30% of its people.


12: Most of its Citizens Live Abroad Malta

After some rough economic times coupled with an increased birth rate,
Malta experienced significant emigration.
It was so significant that there are now more Maltese living abroad than within the country itself.


11: Smaller than Central Park in New York City Monaco

Although Vatican City is smaller at 0.17 sq miles than Monaco 0.8 sq miles,
unlike Monaco it doesn’t have any permanent residents,
which leaves Monaco as the smallest permanently inhabited nation in the world, smaller than Central Park .


10: Almost Entirely Covered in Jungle Suriname

With 91% of its land covered in jungle, Suriname ‘s half-a-million residents live primarily along the coast near the capital.
Only 5% of the population – mainly indigenous people – live inland.


9: Almost Entirely Treeless Haiti

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Haiti , a country that has been so badly deforested that you can tell where
it borders the Dominican Republic by looking at a satellite image ( Haiti is on the left in the photo above).


8: Largest Country with No Farms Singapore

Although there are a number of small nations in the world that show no hint of having an agriculture based economy,
(take Vatican City for example), Singapore is the largest of these urban city-states.


7: Most Languages Spoken Papua New Guinea

Although English is its official language, only 1.5% of the population actually speak it.
As the most linguistically diverse country in the world,
over 820 languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea , or 12% of the world’s total languages.


6: Most Educated People Canada

With 50% of its population having been educated at the post-secondary level,
Canada easily has the most educated populace in the world.
It is followed by Israel at 45% and Japan at 44%.


5: The Country Desert Libya

With 99% of the country covered in desert, Libya is one of the most arid places in the world
and in some regions decades may go by without a single drop of rain.


4: Least Peaceful Nation in the World Somalia

Although for the last three years, IRAQ has been ranked as the least peaceful country in the world,
according to the ‘Global Peace Index’, Somalia overtook it this year for the top spot.


3: Produces Most of the World’s Oxygen Russia

Siberia is home to approximately 25% of the world’s forests
that span an area larger than the continental United States ,
making Russia the largest converter of CO2 into breathable compounds.


2: World’s Largest Opium Producer Afghanistan

Producing a whopping 95% of the world’s opium,
not even 10 years of occupation by American forces have slowed down the industry.


1: Most People Behind Bars United States

There are two ways to look at this. First, American police investigators are very efficient at gathering evidence and solving crime. The prosecutors are good at presenting solid cases to juries which gets a high percentage of convictions. On the other hand, America keeps their convicted criminals far too long, well into their old age when they are no longer threats to society. So, "Life" sentences with no possibility of parole" actually hurts the tax payer more than it helps protect them.

When it comes to incarcerating its population, the United States is the world’s uncontested leader.
With 2.2 million people behind bars, it has 5% of the World’s population, but 25% of the world’s incarcerated population.
China comes in second place at 1.5 million and Russia comes third at 870,000.

Signed bookplates — gratis!

April 29, 2014

Hugh Paxton’s Blog isn’t a Douglas Preston Groupie – I just like a very good book! I spent two weeks in Sri Lanka and there was a beach with roaring surf and a persistent kid from hell waving an elephant (apparently he was swept away in the tsunami, how dreadfully sad) and the breakfasts were good and I ascended mountains and in the Hill Club chill dank, very British and delightful! Hot water bottles! Roaring fire place. Men Only Bar. Tea plantations. Lost cities re-found. But probably best lost again. But I couldn’t find a book shop that sold a Preston or a Child. It was that lawyer Grisham!

I put it on the logs and watched it settle.

What I wanted in Sri Lanka and what I wouldn’t mind here is quite a lot less from lawyers and a lot more from people who don’t try to make you interested by calling their book “The Pelican Briefly dull (a sequel the “Parrot Letter”) Screw Grisham, all those airport sales artists!

I want a book, oh yes, brothers and sisters, oh yes, oh yes! Oh Yess

That starts without a pelican!

From: Douglas Preston []
Sent: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 12:12 AM
Subject: Signed bookplates — gratis!

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Hello to my readers and friends,

The May 2014 publication date of my new solo novel, THE KRAKEN PROJECT, is fast approaching and I wanted to do something special for our newsletter subscribers. To that end, my publisher and I have created a special "Kraken Project" decal bookplate (pictured above), which I will personally sign and send to those who have pre-ordered the new novel (save your receipt!), while bookplate supplies last.

This is not your standard bookplate, but a colorful mission decal similar to the ones NASA creates for its space missions. And as I mentioned, I’ll personally autograph each one in a silver tip pen.

This special offer has been made possible by the generous help of my publisher and is exclusive to the subscribers of this newsletter. No one else will get these fantastic, highly collectible, autographed decal bookplates but you, our subscribers!

Here’s how it works:

Order THE KRAKEN PROJECT from any bookseller in hardcover, or eBook, or audio book, in any store or on line. This offer is open to you even if you’ve already pre-ordered the book!

THE KRAKEN PROJECT bookplate pre-order offer: Any United States or Canadian resident (excluding Quebec) age 18 or older who sends in proof-of-purchase of THE KRAKEN PROJECT print book, or eBook, or audiobook will get THE KRAKEN PROJECT bookplate pre-order offer gift: approximate retail value $5.00 USD (United States Dollar) or $7.00 CAN (Canadian Dollar). Offer ends on May 20, 2014. This is for a limited-time only, while supplies last: only 2,000 free gifts are available.

Go to this link to request the free bookplate and to upload your receipt.

I’m truly sorry that we cannot send the decal bookplates to our overseas friends and readers.

I hope you enjoy THE KRAKEN PROJECT and the autographed decal bookplate. If you’d like to read a sample chapter, check out reviews, or find out where I’ll be doing book signings, please click here.

Thank you for being a loyal reader — I truly appreciate your support!

Warm regards,


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Japan and it’s beviour during WW II And that bridge over the river and Hellfire Pass the The forthcoming movie

April 28, 2014

Hugh Paxton’s Blog was in Singapore and visited The Battle Box. It is a rather muted wax works museum, with good audio effects, set into a central and strategic hill covered in lush, attractive tropical plants, and it goes largely unnoticed if you are here in Singapore for perfume shopping and not the ghosts, history and screams.

The Battle Box got me.

Here in this rather cramped bunker the British authorities of Singapore and their valiant Australian and other Commonwealth Allies argued about an incoming swarm of men who might be fanatics or who might be honourable in victory, and debated and feared for the Chinese residents if they were surrendered to Yamashita’s famous and infamous bicycle army.

There had been the Rape of Nanking.

Nearby, while the Allies in the Battle Box fretted about Singapore having its fresh water supplies amputated, some Anglo-Indian Sikhs colluded with the invaders and helped the Japanese against their former officers. Didn’t precisely help.

And it didn’t do them much good. Empires recognize a good fellow in a fight and use him as such, then they see a slave and a greedy flinching coward when they see one. The Sikhs didn’t look in the mirror. They thought Japan would bring them authority and liberation!

Not quite like that!

The Battle Box, small as it was, for me it shivered with ghosts.

The Japanese Empire smashed Singapore in this Battle Box without dropping a bomb on it.

The Japanese soldiers were flogged and bruised by thumpings by their own NCOs, who were thumped by their junior officers, every Japanese thumped somebody who couldn’t complain because they couldn’t complain themselves, and that builds a lot of anger. The British surrendered with honour and the Japanese murdered every Chinese they could find. Lots of nurses and medical staff. Nurses can’t really thump back. Not if everybody arrives in uniform rapes and murders them. Ironically most of those nurses would have looked after Japanese wounded. But the invaders wanted to try their swords. A lot of Japanese died in hospitals that didn’t have any nurses left to treat their wounds. I don’t find sympathy for them.

My mother, always a bit sensitive to things, felt sick when we entered a house in 1970. It looked nice to me. Flowers. A big bedroom. A floor where I could stand up my toy plastic soldiers.

She couldn’t stand it. “I want to leave this house, please!” Dad isn’t dumb. He sniffed a tainted scent, too. We saw a ghost we did!

No, we probably didn’t! I was knee high to a grasshopper! Just a whiff of wind that knocked my tiny plastic Japanese soldiers over. But I didn’t like them at all and they fell down the drain.

We later learned the Kempeitai, the Japanese super-Gestapo based in Outram Rd and elsewhere had used this place to tear people to pieces. Mainly Chinese. Or Allied prisoners caught with home made radios.

Singapore smiles and there is every reason to do so! A successful nation!

But it is doused, drenched in terrible things. Not of Singapore’s making.

Hugh Paxton’s Blog plans to expose some of these historic things and follow them to the bitter end.

There’s a film, a movie, coming out about the Burma railroads. The bridge on the Kwee. The Railway Man. Opening here in Bangkok on the 6thof May. The people involved in the research, production and film rather bravely intend the movie to hit the screens of Tokyo.

I will continue this series: After walking through Hellfire Pass I can do no less. A pass I can’t forget. It stank of degradation and in defiance of that there were brave men who suffered and dug and watched their hell.

I must add that before I do continue this series I have met many admirable Japanese people. Japanese people who are courteous, kind, lovely. I’ve married one! But I’ve also met men and women in today’s Japan capable of not having a remote interest in what some of the things their grand daddys did.

Look forward to my next blog: It regards North Korea and Japan and North Korea is just what the Singapore-Indian curator of The Battle Box told me, “The next of and last of these war cultures.”

Hugh! In Bangkok!

Wildopeneye: New post Mistlethrush – in decline?

April 28, 2014

Hugh Paxton’s Blog has never seen a Mistle Thrush. But would dearly like to!

From: Wild Open Eye – Natural Vision, News from Wild Open Eye []
Sent: Sunday, April 27, 2014 1:53 AM
Subject: [New post] Mistlethrush – in decline?

wildopeneye posted: "Delighted to see a Mistle Thrush in the garden a few days ago, gathering Ivy berries, one of its favourite foods. As I was reviewing Sony’s new A7r at the time, I was able to grab a short 1080/50p video clip and some stills in APSC crop mode when the bir"

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New post on Wild Open Eye – Natural Vision, News from Wild Open Eye


Mistlethrush – in decline?

by wildopeneye


Delighted to see a Mistle Thrush in the garden a few days ago, gathering Ivy berries, one of its favourite foods. As I was reviewing Sony’s new A7r at the time, I was able to grab a short 1080/50p video clip and some stills in APSC crop mode when the bird moved into the Cherry tree. I’m pleased with the stills quality from Sony’s new full-frame, mirror less camera, with 36Mp and no low-pass filter, detail is pretty phenomenal and it’s great to be able to grab video and stills consecutively at the touch of a button and as you can do both using the electronic viewfinder, you don’t have to take the camera away from your eye when switching from Stills to Video. That’s something I can’t do on my D800, where video can only be composed on the rear LCD screen.

A relative rarity, a Mistle thrush or 'Storm cock' as the old name goes, amongst Cherry blossom in a Surrey garden late April this year.

A relative rarity, a Mistle thrush or ‘Storm cock’ as the old name goes, amongst Cherry blossom in a Surrey garden late April this year. (Taken with Sony A7r and Sigma 150-500mm lens via LEA2 adaptor, APSC crop mode)

The Mistle thrush is quite a spectacular bird, bigger than a blackbird, with distinctive brown spots. It gets its name from its most often eaten fruit, the Mistletoe berry.

Berries of Mistletoe, the aptly named Mistle thrush's favourite food, rooted in a host tree, probably thanks to a Mistle thrush depositing the seeds there.

Berries of Mistletoe, the aptly named Mistle thrush’s favourite food, rooted in a host tree, probably thanks to a Mistle thrush depositing the seeds there. (Taken with a Fuji XT-1 I have been reviewing for Outdoor Photography Magazine)

In fact the Mistletoe is itself dependant on birds like the Mistle thrush ingesting its seeds in the berries and then excreting them in the tops of trees where the Mistletoe can grown.

A tree burdened with parasitic Mistletoe which is able to grow at great heights in the host tree thanks to the seeds being deposited in guano from birds like the Mistle thrush. (Taken with Sigma DP2m)

A tree burdened with parasitic Mistletoe which is able to grow at great heights in the host tree thanks to the seeds being deposited in guano from birds like the Mistle thrush. (Taken with Sigma DP2m)

The Mistle thrush is also a great song bird with a distinctive, flutey song and is known to sing in all weathers too, hence its old name of the ‘Storm cock’, due to its tendency to be the last bird still calling before a storm!

Reports on the status of this bird are mixed, with some sources saying the species is not of concern, while a BBC Nature report last spring quoted an RSPB source as describing a ‘staggering’ rate of decline of this bird in British gardens. As a result it has RSPB Amber status. More on the BBC Nature report here:

The RSPB results were derived from the Big Garden Birdwatch survey which suggested that Mistle thrush are seen in less than half the number of gardens than they were 10 years ago. I have certainly never seen one in our garden before, despite keeping a close eye on our local nature for around 15 years, so my experience would seem to bear out the RSPB results, which claim a decline of a significant 28% in the 15 years from 1995 to 2010. Over the same period, Song thrushes which are also a species of concern, increased by 13%, which puts the apparent decline of the Mistle thrush into stark perspective. Reasons for a decline could be many, but possible leading contenders are the loss of traditional pasture.

I think the bird visited our garden because it is quite wild, with hedges and Ivy. Maybe we need less pristine, tailored gardens and more wild and untamed areas would not come amiss and would attract wildlife like the Mistle thrush and probably many other species too – a great reason for a more relaxed gardening stye! The results of the Big Garden Birdwatch for 2014 can be seen here:

AL April 2014

wildopeneye | 26/04/2014 at 6:53 pm | Tags: 1080 50p HD video, Amber Status, Andy Luck, BBC Nature, Bird watching, Blossom, Fuji XT-1, Garden birds, Great Garden Birdwatch, In decline, Mistle thrush, Mistletoe, Outdoor Photography Magazine, photography, Rare sighting, RSPB, Sigma 150-500, Sigma DP2m, Song birds, Sony A7r, Sony LEA2 adaptor, Spring, Storm cock | Categories: Conservation, Recording wildlife sightings, Uncategorized, Wildopeneye on birds | URL:

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More on China (and a photo, free of charge of my daughter and Beth after winning a Tee ball comp this morning)

April 26, 2014

Further to the recent China beards post, veils are also on the Chinese hit list. Don’t go in to a bank or government building wearing one. It’s part of Project Beauty. A project designed to stop people wearing Islamic stuff. Uighurs.

I don’t like Islamic militants and never have. But these Uighurs have had several reasons to become militant. Mao’s Red Guards ordered them to become pig farmers to take one example. And if they didn’t want to raise pigs for religious reasons the Red Guards smashed their heads in to re-educate them. They called it self-criticism.

Twitter’s in trouble, too. A Chinese official has just twittered all twitterers (rather odd given that China has banned Twitter) ordering “immediate rectification.” Of a Twitter account that ridicules Chinese officials.

The photo, incidentally, has nothing to do with Uighurs, China, Red Guards, veils, bombings or beards. Just my daughter being happy. I thought you might like to see it!



China: Beard watching (There’s Gold in them thar facial whiskers!)

April 26, 2014

Hugh Paxton’s Blog expects China to be confusing. And it never lets me down.

Beard spotting.

No I’m not drunk or using illicit substances.

Who needs mind warping chemicals when beard spotting is not just happening but officially sanctioned! Chinese authorities in Xinjiang region’s Shaya County,are concerned about violent Uighur Islamic militants. The police want to arrest them (or shoot them) and why not? A sensible strategy. But finding these people can be tricky. The Uighur minority are a slippery lot. They melt into the hills after a violent moment of riot or bombing or malcontent. But they have one potentially fatal flaw. The men grow beards. For cultural and religious purposes.

The Chinese law enforcement chaps thought this over and decided that the easiest way to quell unrest and fill the cells and keep the firing squads gainfully employed was to identify men with beards. A reward has been issued. Quite a good one.

If you are in this area and see someone with a beard contact the local police and you could walk away with a wallet bulging! If they grab a guy with a beard who isn’t a terrorist you won’t get much more than 50 Yuan. If he’s got a really nasty long tangled un-restive beard and has a bomb in his bag then you will receive more than 50,000 Yuan!

Eyes peeled, fellows!

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