Book Review: Thai Lite 2 – the Refill
by Lang Reid
Books have come out with another publication from the pen of the humorous
writer known only as S. Tsow (and not S. Cow if you read his letter to The
Nation dealing with transliteration English-Chinese!).
Thai Lite 2 – the Refill (ISBN 974-93671-3-8) is a collection of 35 short
essays dealing with life in Thailand. Amongst the evocative (provocative?)
titles is, “A guide for western Romeos, Why getting romantically involved
with a Thai bargirl is not a good idea : The Law of Escalating Demands and
the Behind-the-Buffalo factor.” The chapter head almost tells it all, but S.
Tsow delves deeper with sociological explanations of the family pecking
order (and your place in it) and quotes from other writers and references to
Leary’s Law from Collin Piprell’s “Bangkok Knights” which states, ‘If you
must marry, marry an orphan’.
Around once a week you will read entreaties in the readers letters sections
of the popular media, with expats asking why does the council allow street
vendors to block city streets, making it difficult for people to walk past.
Tsow reveals all with an in-depth delve into the Dukkha Syndrome, attempting
to explain the phenomenon by reference to ancient Buddhist practices.
Unfortunately he is totally wrong and he finally admits this in print,
writing, “Every time you think you’ve got Thai culture all figured out, it
throws a curved ball at you that shatters all your theories and puts you
right back to square one.” Now isn’t that a fact!
With floods in Bangkok a perennial problem, Tsow has put together a chapter
to help you wade through the morass. He has two simple rules:
1. Stock up on beer
2. There is no 2.
He also mentions the following salient point: “If the floods are prolonged,
you may worry about how to get to work. Don’t worry about it. Nobody will be
going to work. Sit home and drink beer. That’s what you bought it for.” If
you need further encouragement in following his simple two step, he writes,
“Think about Noah who was stuck on the ark for 40 days and 40 nights with no
beer and all those animals with their fragrant by-products. Not to mention
Mrs. Noah who cannot have been pleased with the situation.”
One wonderfully satirical chapter is entitled, “The Quest for Quality
Tourists,” with the sub-head: “An interview with the newly appointed
Minister for Social Control, Khun Pharisee Savonarolakul : her stern views
on quality tourists ; why Jesus and Buddha don’t qualify.” Khun Pharisee
describes plainly just what Thailand is looking for. “These standards
reflect Thai values. Our most important value is money, so our first
requirement is that quality tourists must be filthy rich.”
I chanced upon this book on Bookazine’s shelves, which these days seem to
have a surfeit of poorly written memoirs masquerading as books. S. Tsow is a
good writer and this book is not of the genre just mentioned. It is amusing
and informative, particularly if you know how to read between the lines. At
B. 325 it is a cheap read, and I enjoyed it.
Mott’s CD review: Steve Hillman
The World Over
Scripted by Mott the Dog
Edited by Meow the Cat
Five Stars *****
For many years it has confused lovers of good music why Steve Hillman is
not at the top of his own musical tree. Steve first came to the public’s
notice in 1983 with the release of his first collection of works, ‘From
Distant Shores’, which was put out on his own record label in cassette
form. Steve Hillman remained an underground, unheralded musician years
ahead of his time. He threw himself whole heartedly into the burgeoning
electronic scene flourishing in Birmingham, England, where he found many
kindred spirits in the musicians of the area, championed by Lotus
Records. Steve Hillman made many tape collections for Lotus Records that
were cherished by the few, but unfortunately the mainstream record
buying public was unaware of his undoubted talents.
During the 1980s, Steve Hillman played live at many major rock events,
always gaining favorable reviews. Every artist has their influences, and
Steve’s were many, from jazz to some of rock’s more avant-garde bands
such as Hawkwind, Can, Pink Floyd, and Mike Oldfield, as well as being
fascinated by the works of soundtracks to movies such as the work of
John Williams and John Barry. Surprising for a boy born in 1956, when
Birmingham was the birthplace of such bands as Black Sabbath and Led
Zeppelin. But during the eighties Steve Hillman was able to hone his
skills as not only a superb guitarist and keyboard player, but also as a
very original and exciting songwriter.
In 1994 Steve Hillman’s domination of the world’s music scene was given
an enormous leg up when he was signed to the progtastic record label
Cyclops, run by Mr. Progressive Rock Malcolm Parker. There followed four
stunning albums. The first two are ‘Matrix’ (1994) and ‘Riding The
Storm’ (1996), which were basically re-recordings of all the best bits
from his tape releases put out on CD. The next album was a step into the
world of Progressive Rock: ‘Convergence’ (1999), where Steve Hillman put
the keyboards more to the background and brought out his electric
guitar. This turned Convergence into a pretty heavy affair, well
appreciated by fans of the genre.
In 2002 Steve stepped back into a more electronic, synthesizer and
sequencer mode to give us an album of beautiful soundscapes, although
the guitar was not entirely forgotten, occasionally rearing its six
stringed head to put a bit of backbone into some songs. All of Steve
Hillman’s solo albums in the past have been all instrumental, and Steve
has played all the instruments himself, except for some haunting flute
work by his wife Linda, who also did all the imposing artwork for the
albums. One reviewer said that Steve Hillman was to England what
‘Tangerine Dream’ was to Germany.
Whilst Steve Hillman was setting about recording a new solo album he was
approached by the genial Bruce Wood of Dreamfast Cinema to make a
soundtrack album with the view to being for an imaginary Secret Agent
movie. As Steve Hillman had always enjoyed the soundtracks of John
Barry, who did all the James Bond soundtracks, this was too good an
opportunity to miss. So the solo album was put on hold, and work began
on the soundtrack album without a film.
Although as usual Steve Hillman has composed and arranged all the
tracks, this time he has called in some of Britain’s top musicians to
play along with him. Steve Hillman limited himself to only keyboards and
the occasional bit of percussion. Brought into the studio is literally
the crème de la crème, Iain Ballamy on soprano and tenor sax (who many
of you may be familiar with, as he used to play in the excellent ‘Bill
Bruford’s Earthworks’); Rain, who plays all of the guitar parts, which
must have been pretty daunting to play under the guidance of such a good
guitarist as Steve Hillman himself; and Phil Morgan on the violin and
viola, which he does with great aplomb, making the spooky or sexy
passages of the music quite exhilarating. Darrell Davison plays the
cello, whilst Gareth Davies has the unenviable job of replacing Steve’s
wife Linda on all the flute parts; very well he does too, not surprising
really as his day job is that of principal flautist of the London
Symphony Orchestra. In fact you can safely say that all the musicians
are at the top of their talents. However, the keyboard playing of Steve
Hillman is the thing that stands out amongst the music, surprisingly
jazzy at times, particularly in the wonderful but too short ‘Thirties
The most exciting thing about the whole album is that you can actually
imagine the film unfolding as you listen to the music. For the sake of
this review I have created my own special agent Phil Simonbrook 008, who
in the plot for our movie has to go in and save the heroine Lovely
Deborah (no doubt a close relative to Pussy Galore), after the last 007
Daniel Craig makes a hash of things in Casino Royale. Simonbrook has to
go in and save the girl and the world. The opening title sequence is
aptly named ‘Fired Up’, as the mood is set up by some strident music
that fairs favorably with any other Bond movie opening, leaving you in
no doubt that there is plenty adventure to come. ‘Linda’s Theme’ covers
the usual Bond requirements where Simonbrook is briefed by ‘M’ and then
has some fun on a visit to ‘Q’.
‘Long Hot Night’ is a fully fledged action sequence which find’s
Simonbrook abseiling down the side of the castle where he thinks the
Lovely Debbie is held captive, only to come flying through the window to
find that Lovely Debbie is gone, as she has already overpowered her
captives and fled.
This is followed by the title track where Simonbrook and Lovely are
reunited, and prepare to save the world from the wicked ‘Root Of All
Evil’. But of course before there is time to save the world Simonbrook
and Lovely have to do what hero and heroine have to do. By the sounds of
some of these tracks this will be one of the steamiest secret agent
stories ever told, building to several climaxes.
By the time you get to track ten, ‘Slow Down’, things are brought back
under control and it is time for the film’s shattering finale. The song
titles say it all: ‘What The Hell’, Regrets’, and ‘The Chase Is On’. By
this time it seems pretty likely Simonbrook and Lovely have vanquished
the Root Of All Evil, and the World is once again safe. Which just
leaves the closing ‘Journey’s End’ to allow Phil Simonbrook and Lovely
Debbie to float away into the sunset.
The music is so inspiring that I am sure whoever listens to this album
will be able to make up their own storyline to it, but I assure you it
will be an excellent story. Perhaps now they should make a new film and
build it around the soundtrack.
A great idea by Dreamfast Cinema, excellently executed by Steve Hillman.
There is more new music in the pipeline from Steve Hillman, as yet again
another solo album has had to be put on the shelf as he has been
enrolled in a new Progressive Rock Supergroup ‘RA’, who already have an
album in the can called ‘Wake’ that will hopefully be released sometime
this year. ‘RA’ features David Groves on guitar, Robert Andrews on bass,
Dai Rees on drums and Steve Hillman on keyboards, so watch out for that.
But in the meantime ‘The World Over’ will be released on August 15th
2006 and will be available through the usual outlets including
www.amazon.com. ‘The World Over’ will definitely be Mott the Dog’s album
of the year.
Long Hot Night
The World Over
As Chance Would Have it
What The Hell
The Chase Is On
Steve Hillman: Keyboards and Percussion
Iain Ballamy: Soprano and Tenor Saxophone
Gareth Davies: Flute and Alto Sax
Rain: Acoustic and electric bass, and guitars
Phil Morgan: Violin and Viola
Darrell Davison: Cello
To contact Mott the
Dog email: [email protected]