Archive for the ‘The Planet Mars’ Category

Mars (and other nonsense): urban legends (and other nonsense)

August 27, 2013

Hugh Paxtons Blog has been advised to check the following site before suggesting you all rush out and spend the night trying to find a gigantic incoming planet. Called Mars. Good advice, actually. The site’s fun. Lots of improbable spiders, stupid stories…

Thai Days: Not much of a rainy season and our holy toad

May 6, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog was sitting outside watching a rather pathetic sprinkle of rain and thinking “This rainy season sucks”. A bit of drizzle once every two weeks and then nothing.

My friend, Miles, turned up with an umbrella trying to make the most of the occasion but despite his best efforts to taunt the weather into performing as it should during the monsoon period, the rain fizzled out. Miles and I are both English so we talked about the weather – complained about the weather to be more accurate – and then Miles asked me if I’d seen the toad on the road.

I told him I’d seen lots of toads on the road. The poor little buggers leap into action every time a drop of water falls from our lowering but impotent skies and then clear off as soon as the precipitation no-show becomes apparent.

“No, not them,” said Miles, furling his unecessary umbrella. “THE toad on the road!”

Aha! THE toad on the road!

No. I hadn’t seen that. But I will do very soon!

Our gate guards are great chaps. Sleeping Beauty is always a serene and restful sight, Hitler eats bees (alive) after catching them with a swift finger and thumb movement and isn’t a guard to tangle with, the other fellow I call Salute. It’s a whiplash salute accompanied with a scowling yet loving smile that both hint at many years of military service with special forces. We also have a real live serving soldier. He spends his time dreamily playing the guitar and reading books and chatting to an admiring gaggle of local kids who probably should be at school.

A security force to be reckoned with!

And here we come to the toad on the road. By the entrance gate there is a small shrine, a ghost or spirit house, that augments our safety by keeping witches and goblins out. Here dwells the holy toad. The guards are feeding it with dry dog food and it is, says Miles, too large to hop.

The toad’s raison d’etre? To bring on the rainy season.

Thailand continues to be predictably unpredictable. One reason I love it here. I just hope nobody flattens the holy toad driving in. I think our security lads might be unhappy if that happened. And the rains might never come.

I’ll be making a “Beware of the Toad” road sign.

Cheers from Hugh in Bangkok










Thai Days: quick street movie review.

April 3, 2012

Hugh Paxton’s Blog was taking a wander along a street. Evening. There was fun in the air. Food in the street stalls. The usual ingenious salesmen were selling ingenious things. A family had set up a cocktail bar on the pavement and while the number one son mixed mojitos, grandpa was looking after sons number eight to ten. An aunt or two were washing plates and slicing limes and the owner, if such an enterprise could be said to have an owner, was demonstrating how to fire rocket shaped things using an elastic band that floated back to earth with the aid of rotors. Ten of these things cost a quid. The cocktail bar was about as legal as the shop on the next pavement. I could not believe it! There were thousands of DVDs for sale. And most of the prominently displayed titles were still doing the rounds of Bangkok’s principle cinemas. Some hadn’t even been released yet. I mean whoopdedoo! A mojito for a few coins, some silly but exciting rocket action and now I’ll never need Amazon again and Blockbusters? Seriously busted.

Piracy is a bit of an issue in South East Asia. And I’m all for it! Not officially of course. I guess that street mojito must have gone to my head. But I bought seven DVDS for 500 baht. The Woman in Black (I’d just paid 900 Baht to see it at a cinema), John Carter (I’d been planning to take Annabel and her friends to see it and that junket would have set me back 2,000 baht plus popcorn), The Iron Lady (my wife’s been wanting to go the cinema to see that and I’ve never had to invent excuses – she’s terminally busy), Puss in Boots (I’ve been desperately trying to avoid that) and a couple of others.

The transaction wasn’t illegal. The family selling these DVDs weren’t selling the DVDs. They were selling the covers. We browsed and Annabel asked me what porn was and I said it was of interest to some people but not what we needed at the moment. We made our selection (thankfully Annabel didn’t push the porn issue) and were invited to take a seat. We did. The plastic stools were nice if you like squatting five inches above the pavement. The street fizzed with life. It continued to smell of smells. Crab curry. Exhaust. A cigar. Perfume. Ten minutes later a motorbike arrived at high speed. The driver unloaded a box of plastic hair brushes and our DVDs.

The lady who had facilitated this delivery suggested that we might like a hairbrush to brush our hair and groom ourselves while we enjoyed our in-house entertainment. She was a sweet old gal and I gave her 100 baht for a beer but declined the hairbrush. A scalp assault if ever I’ve seen one.

Illegally we watched 1. Tin tin. it really wasn’t bad. At first we didn’t take to him. The comics are immortal and he looked annoying. And the plot was a bit of a mix of this and that. But overall, not bad. Picture quality and audio first class. Five stars.
2. Puss in Boots. I found it really annoying and far too loud. Annabel loved it. Visuals audio first rate.
3. The Woman in Black. It was the same thing I’ve recently watched. I fell asleep.
4. The Iron Lady. We haven’t watched it yet.
5. Some dumb animal drama. We gave it to a child who will like it for his birthday present.
6. War Horse. Haven’t seen it yet.
7. John carter warlord of Mars. This one gets a very negative review I’m afraid. Whoever pirated John Carter went for the 3D version. Annabel and I tried it this evening without silly and uncomfortable glasses and after one minute of blurred vision I thought “I’ve suffered a stroke. My vision’s going! Everything’s a sort of foggy surreal visual torture…”

But overall this blog rates street sales as value for money. They are of course against the law and we will be destroying all our DVDs. I’m starting with John Carter from Mars. The blurry bastard!

Thai Days: Mars on Monday

March 3, 2012

This coming Monday night Hugh Paxton’s blog will be ascending a tall Bangkok building (of which there are many) and lifting my gaze to the night skies. Thailand’s National Astronomical Institute has informed me, and everybody else, that Mars will be closer to Earth than at any time in the last 26 months and will be shining 17 times more brightly than usual. If you fancy a fairly close encounter with the red planet – red because its surface is dominated by iron oxide – look in the vicinity of the Leo constellation.

PS After informing my daughter of this extra-terrestrial visual thrill, she was less than impressed and informed me that while Mars may be putting on a bit of a show it bore no comparison to the great comet of 1811 which (according to her) passed into the solar system and was visible to the naked eye for 250 days. She gets this stuff from Ripley’s Believe it or Not! I’d never heard of this Great Comet before. But I guess she’s probably right. This said Annabel’s going to see Mars whether she likes it or not. And if the moon doesn’t explode or aliens don’t arrive or another Great Comet doesn’t put in an appearance, she’s stuck with Mars. Blimey! The youth of today! Never satisfied!


Perhaps Annabel would like to be a Martian explorer? I bet she’d be pretty good at it.

Here’s something that will get her properly in the mood for Mars viewing, NASA’s Be A Martian website. You can register as a member or use the site as a visitor and join a global human effort to map the surface of Mars. That striking orange light in the sky seems a lot more interesting when viewed from the perspective of a Martian topographical researcher!

I bet a lot of readers would enjoy the site too and enjoy making their own contribution to space exploration!

Martian Academic Skills Builder Game  Eating Ratios

This could be fun too. In this game you are a bright green Martian with an insatiable appetite for ratios, gobble them up to score points.

Mars In The News

Mars is a hot topic at the moment because this year the most advanced Mars rover yet devised, named “Curiosity”, will touch down in the vicinity of the Martian equator on a mission to find an answer to the question of whether there is, or was life on Mars. This is mankind’s best chance yet to find “the chemical building blocks of life” on the Red Planet.

Unfortunately, President Obama has just cut NASA funding and now, to misquote the Vangelis song, the chances of anything coming from Mars really do seem a million to one. These cuts mean the cancellation of proposed missions including a plan to bring Martian samples back to Earth.

Could there be a joint international mission to do that instead? It would be great to see man’s foot-prints on Martian soil.

Read more:
See a movie about Mars? Disney’s adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ Sci-fi classic John Carter opens March 9th in America,  click here to see the official John Carter movie site.
I haven’t seen that one yet,  my favourite Martian film so far has got to be Quatermass And The Pit. It is beautifully made, very well acted and spine-chillingly sinister.
HUGH PAXTON ADDENDUM TO CHARLES’S ADDENDUM”: Thanks Charles! You have rekindled my daughter’s interest in Mars! Good work!

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