Recent Happenings

Concert in the Park

From mid-December through mid-February, the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra presents concerts on Sunday evenings in Lumpini Park. Lumpini Park is a 140 acre park with a man-made lake; 1.5 miles of trails for jogging, cycling, or rollerblading; weights for working out; beautiful lawns and landscaping; a public swimming pool; and the fabulous water monitors! Located about one-half mile from my apartment, getting there entails either a short walk or an inexpensive tuk-tuk ride.

Perhaps a few thousand people, maybe more, make their way to the gazebo in the park’s Palm Garden to enjoy the Sunday evening concerts, which begin at 5:30 p.m. Since these are the relatively cooler months here in Krung Thep, the al fresco concerts are a pleasant way to wrap-up the weekend. The first time I arrived at the bandstand, I did not have a blanket or anything upon which to sit. However, I found that several entrepreneurs rent mats, so for 40 baht ($1.33) I can sit comfortably on the ground and define my space.

The two-hour concerts feature primarily western music and composers. Last Sunday, for example, the symphony began its show with Rossini’s William Tell Overture (which, in my memory, is better known as the theme song from The Lone Ranger), followed by the Bacchanale from Saint-Saëns’ opera Sampson and Delilah, and then several selections from Rodger and Hammerstein’s Sound of Music, including Edelweiss, My Favorite Things, Do-Re-Mi, and, of course, the title song. Later in the show, vocalists joined with the symphony to sing several songs made famous by the late, great Nat King Cole including L.O.V.E and When I Fall in Love. The Bangkok Symphony seems quite fond of music by Leroy Anderson as the concert-goers immediately recognized Fiddle Faddle. Near the end of the evening, the symphony performed Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, which I associate with college commencements but that I learned was originally composed for the coronation of King Edward VII, the predecessor of Queen Victoria. The last piece of the evening, as appears to be a tradition for these outdoor concerts, was Strauss’ Radetzky March.

Swan boats on the lake

Swan boats on the lake

Lumpini clocktower

Lumpini clock tower

Chinese pavilion

Chinese pavilion

Weightlifters in the park

Weightlifters in the park

Lion on top of band stand

Lion on top of gazebo

Crowd waiting for show to start

Crowd waiting for show to start

Mats to rent

Mats to rent

Crowd and orchestra

Concert-goers and orchestra

Male vocalist

Male vocalist

Female vocalist

Female vocalist

Issan Jaunt

During the past couple of weeks, I have been traveling around Thailand to visit some of our dealers and wish them a Happy New Year. This past week, I visited Udon Thani, Sakon Nakhom, and Khon Kaen in Issan, or Northeast Thailand. Although Issan is Thailand’s poorest region, it is growing rapidly as businesses prepare for the launch of the Asian Economic Community (AEC) at the end of 2015. The AEC will encompass 600 million people in the nations of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Once implemented, there will be a free flow of goods, services, investment capital and skilled labor among these nations. Issan is bordered by Cambodia to the south and Laos to the east with the border demarcated by the Mekong River. High-speed railways that are currently under construction to link  Beijing to Bangkok will also run through Issan.

While in Khon Kaen, the dealer took my sales manager and me to visit Wat Nong Wang, a nine-story temple located near Lake Bueng Kaen Nakhon. Unlike so many temples in Thailand, this one is relatively new — it was constructed in 1996 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of King Rama IX’s ascension to the throne and the 200th anniversary of the founding of Khon Kaen. It seems to be quite the draw for school children on field trips and for tourists to the area.

The nine-story, 260 foot tall stupa is square in shape with each side measuring 50 meters (164 feet). The doors and windows are beautifully carved and tell the story of Buddha. Murals within the building depict the history of the town. There is a museum on one of the floors that has old tools, primarily wooden, that farmers and fishermen used. Of particular interest to me were the fish traps that were constructed of reeds or bamboo. These were cleverly designed so that fish could swim in but they were unable to swim out. The top floor of the stupa houses relics of Buddha and the balcony provides a panoramic view of the city and lake.

Wat Nong Wang

Wat Nong Wang

Carved door panels

Carved door panels

View from top

View from the top of Wat Nong Wang

Fish trap

Large fish trap

pics 057

Painted panels

Garuda and elephants

Garuda and elephants

Four more years to destroy America

The only good news that I can see from today’s inauguration is that from now on every passing day means that this eight-year nightmare will be closer to the end then to the beginning. My utter disdain of BHO and his administration is driven by the following facts:

  • During the first term, the U.S. working age population grew by 9.6 million people, yet the labor force expanded by just 1.3 million.
  • While employment grew by 1.2 million, the net increase in jobs were all part-time positions.
  • If the labor force participation rate had not plunged by over two points, the unemployment rate today would be 10.7% rather than the still-abysmal 7.8%.
  • Over 18 million people have been added to the food stamp rolls and average benefits have increased by 31%. The net result is that annual spending on food stamps has more than doubled during the past four years.
  • Over 2 million people have been added to either Social Security disability or SSI disability roles, increases of 19% and 10%, respectively, while the population has increased by just 3%. Seems likely to be a response to the poor economy and people’s inability to find jobs.
  • While earnings have stagnated, the price of gasoline is up 80%.
  • Four consecutive years of deficits over $1 trillion have driven up the national debt by $5.5 trillion, a 55% increase.
  • While the stock market has recovered nicely, I wonder how much higher my IRAs and 401-k would be if the sclerotic economy were recovering normally.

The disingenuous, arrogant, divisive, pompous, narcissistic, and cynical redistributionist and the pantheon of sycophantic fools with which he surrounds himself simply propose Potemkin policies rather than real solutions to the nation’s fiscal mess. Nevertheless, I pray for the president’s health so that the country is at least spared from that idiot Biden.

First Four Years

We should implore God to help the U.S. survive the next four years, while we keep in mind the insightful warning of Friedrich von Hayek:

The power which a multiple millionaire, who may be my neighbor and perhaps my employer, has over me is very much less than that which the smallest functionnaire possesses who wields the coercive power of the state on whose discretion it depends whether and how I am to be allowed to live or to work. — The Road to Serfdom

Kop Khun Krab.

© 2013 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.

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