Saturday, June 28, 2008

555 = LOL

You know one of the great pleasures of living in a foriegn country is that, with time, you come to understand the little things in that culture.

Some times make it no sense on the surface, but once you know - it all makes sense.

A friend of mine SMS'd me the other day and concluded the message with 555.

I scratched by head for an hour before I figured it out. The thai word for the number 5 is Ha.

So 555 means Ha Ha Ha!!!


Street Food in Thailand

I've been eating a lot of Street Food in Thailand lately. Partially because it's quick,convenient & delicious and partially because it's all part of the charm of living in the "land of smiles".

About a block from my Condo, there are six or seven food stalls set up in the dirt parking lot adjacent to the (ubiquitous) 7/11 Store. You see both Thai and local ex-pats eating there daily.

A lot of farang (westerners) are nervous about eating on the street. In two and one half years in Thailand, I've never had a "problem". In fact the only time I've ever had serious food poisoning in Thailand was from a frozen food item bought from a major western supermarket!

Street food is usually fresh (cooked while you watch), cheap and delicious.

Last night I bought several chicken skewers for 5 baht each (15 cents) - white meat brushed with butter, salt & pepper cooked over hot coals. Arroy! (Delicious!!).

You see a lot of chicken, fish, sausage and pork at these stalls - all cheap & delicious. You'll also see a lot of Som Tam- a spicy salad with shredded papaya and of course no meal is complete without rice!

For breakfast, you can get a rice porridge with pork or chicken called "Joke" for about 50 cents.

I usually buy two or three small things from separate stalls and, for about 2 dollars eat like a king!

Food Prices are rising everywhere (even in Thailand), but if you are willing to "go thai", you can eat very well for less than $5 a day .... just one more reason too love Thailand!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

North To Alaska

Last month I had the opportunity to return to Alaska for the first time in almost 10 years.

I expected changes.

And there were a few. More ships, bigger ships, some new stores and even some new docking facilities, but all in all it still felt much like the Alaska I first witnessed on board the Costa Cruise ship "Daphne" in June of 1986.

The blue ice still amazes and the snow capped peaks still inspire.

What made the the experience whole was running into my old friend Steve Hites in Skagway. Steve is a Singer/Songwriter who has performed professionally across Alaska since 1973, and released three albums including "Yukon Legacy", recorded live at the Red Dog Saloon.

Steve's one man show (which he has performed each summer on board visiting cruise ships as long as I can remember) consists of songs and stories about "Soapy Smith & the Gold Rush Days of 98".

It a very entertaining show and if you are fortunate enoough to be aboard a cruise ship that calls on Skagway, be sure and check your daily program to see if Steve will be appearing.

It's definitely worth getting back to the ship early to catch his show!

Not content to just be a "singer of songs", Steve also owns The Skagway Streetcar Company. A great way to tour the town with colorfully dressed characters who share the stories of Skagway.

Thanks Steve for making Alaska still feel like Alaska!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Those Fwded Emails...

I get them everyday. I'm sure you do to. You know the ones. An email forwarded from a "friend of a friend of a friend" who absolutely must inform you of the latest computer virus or political chicanery.

Yesterday, I got one from an old friend in New Orleans. She dutifully forwarded an email about Rep. Nancy Pelosi proposing a horrible new tax on retirement income to everyone in her address book (pleading with them to forward it on too).

It's full of details about how the system would deprive seniors of their hard earned money, it's full of quotes from Speaker Pelosi....

It's full of Lies.

AS A GENERAL RULE these emails are NOT to be believed (and should never be forwarded on as "gospel" without checking the facts first).

It's easy enough to verify the truthfulness of these emails. Go to SNOPES.COM and you'll find a comprehensive listing.

By the way,if you really want the truth about the Nancy Pelosi email, click HERE.

Hard as it is to belivee...just because it's on the internet doesn't mean it's true.

Here are some of the latest and greatest email lies circulating through millions of virtual mailboxes.





After receiving the email from my friend, I replied to her and urged her to go to to check out the facts first.

I haven't heard back from her. In all likeihood she'll continue to forward useless bytes of data, hopefully I'm off her list.

There's enough real stuff out there to get outraged about without spreading hate and fear over the false stuff. It bogs down the internet with useless traffic and perpetuates the worst kind of myths and urban legends.

And anyways, Congress is about to put a 5 cent tax on every email you send any day now (false)

A Troubling Prediction

There has been a lot of distressing news on the world economic front lately, but this is the starkest one I've seen yet!

RBS issues global stock and credit crash alert
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor
Last Updated: 2:50pm BST 18/06/2008

The Royal Bank of Scotland has advised clients to brace for a full-fledged crash in global stock and credit markets over the next three months as inflation paralyses the major central banks.

"A very nasty period is soon to be upon us - be prepared," said Bob Janjuah, the bank's credit strategist.

Even here if Thailand, the cost of living is accelerating. Gas & Food prices (like everywhere) top the list.

If there ever was a time to seriously pay attention to the markets, that time is now.

For the time being, I'm keeping my money under the mattress!!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The First 100 is Always the Hardest!!!

An unverifiable quote attributed to Albert Einstein is "The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest"

Although there is considerable doubt as to whether he ever said that, it is certainly true when applied to social networking. Like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon, it's not just who you are connected to, it's who they are connected to as well.

Many years ago, when I first began my career in show business, I was given the advice to keep a "Little Black Book" with the names & addresses of everyone I ever met in the industry. Eventually, you'll wish you had.

Today, it's not about "little black books" anymore. It's social networking site on the Internet like Facebook & Myspace.

Unfortunately, these sites (with few exceptions) are all about "social tagging" - like a senior signing a yearbook and then immediately moving on to the next one - very little real networking goes on there, and because anyone can join, pages get cluttered with junk posted by pretenders, wannabees and casual friends.

Thats why we wanted to build The Green Room.

What we are building here (hopefully) will be different. We offer more than a billboard for people to post to. There are Industry Resources, Professional Groups, Message Boards and real Entertainment News (not Britney stories).... and real networking.

In a little under three weeks we are closing in on the 100 member mark. All are industry professionals - not necessarily "stars" (although a few are) but certainly working performers from all over the world.

If our 100 members can each invite ten people, who in turn invite ten people ..... Compound Interest.

And it doesn't take an Einstein to the see power of that.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Remembering Alexander

While surfing the internet this week I ran across an Entertainment Agency that showed them still booking Curtis"Alexander" Carroll.

No doubt Curtis would smile and enjoy the irony since he had passed away Nov. 20, 2006 after a long illness.

Truly, the idea of being "booked from beyond" would thrill any magician.

I decided to email the agency to let them know that Alexander was probably "no longer available".

I first worked with Curtis in 1988 on the Sagafjiord for Cunard Line sailing through the Panama Canal. As friends, we hit it off immediately and remained close for the next 18 years.

He was born in Skagway and grew up in Juneau and Ketchikan, and Edmonds, Wash. He was a comedy magician and hypnotist who went by the stage name "Alexander."

A performing member of the Hollywood Magic Castle, Curtis entertained in Las Vegas, on Princess Cruise Lines and other cruise lines and around the world, making people laugh in "The Magic and Comedy of Alexander" and as "America's Funniest Hypnotist."

Prior to his career in magic, he began his musical career as an award-winning trumpet player then transitioned to the soprano bugle with the Thunderbird Drum and Bugle Corps, in Seattle, helping to win a national championship and eventually playing horn with Doc Severinsen.

Curtis was only 58. And he is still missed by many.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ed Goren - Inside Baseball

A few days a go, I wrote about cruising with Sportscaster Jim Nantz. The day after I posted it, Jim's good friend and mentor broadcasting legend, Jim Mckay passed away at age 86.

Jim spoke to me about his admiration and fondness of Mckay, in fact he moved to Westport CT near to where Mckay lived at the time(and played often played golf with him).

Along with Jim and his family, Ed Goren and his wife Patti were on that cruise (Crown Odyssey Mediterranean 1992).

Ed Goren is a 37-time Emmy Award winner and Executive Producer of FOX Sports since 1994, he was named President of FOX Sports in April 2000.

Goren had been Senior Producer at CBS Sports since 1991, where he worked on nearly every sport the network broadcast. During his tenure as Senior Producer, CBS Sports broadcast such major events as the World Series, the NCAA Basketball Tournament, The Masters® and Super Bowl XXVI.

Quite a resume. And to be honest a really nice guy!!!

But that was not my first impression of him (long before we actually met)

I'm a BIG baseball fan and, being from the south, a big ATLANTA BRAVES fan.

Back on 1991, the Braves and Dodgers were locked in a tight pennant battle and were to be the featured CBS Game of the Week. It had been heavily hyped on the network for over a week and I, like millions of rabid fans planned our day around the broadcast.

Of course nobody consulted with Mother Nature. The skies above Atlanta Fulton Co. Stadium opened up, a rain delay ensued and ( a rather meaningless) Toronto - Oakland game took center stage.

Pat O'Brien dutifully came on between each inning assuring the national audience that they would return to the featured game once play resumed.

After several more innings, O'Brien came back on the air and said that play had resumed in Atlanta but due to the lateness of the restart (and conflict with their Prime Time schedule), they would NOT pick up the rest of the game.

Within minutes telephone switchboards lit up at CBS affiliates around the country with angry viewers. I was in New Orleans (WWL-TV)and I was among them.

Getting no satisfaction from the local, I tried calling New York (foolish I know on a Saturday afternoon) but received nothing but busy signals ( I obviously wasn't alone).

Grabbing paper and pen, I proceeded to write a scathing letter (calling it the Heidi Football Game Equivalent).

The letter was angry, scathing ... and addressed to Ed Goren.

Now it's six months later and I'm sitting on deck late afternoon having a beer with him talking baseball (which he too loves).

Feeling very guilty over my tirade I asked him "Did you get a lot of "feedback" over the LA - Atlanta game last fall??

He rolled his eyes and said "Boy did I, I even got hate mail from my father ...and he's been dead six months"

Turns out the decision to ditch the game wasn't even made by Ed (and in fact he was quite sympathetic to the fans).

After that, I felt safe telling him that I was one of the many "fan(atics)" who had voiced my opinion at the time.

We had a laugh and another beer.

Goren's sports roots run deep, as his late father, Herb Goren, was a longtime baseball columnist for the New York Sun and public relations director for the New York Rangers hockey club.

The Weather Geek

OK, I admit it, I am a weather geek.

The power and the enormity of Mother Nature's fury can instill awe and fear in most mortals. I also found it fascinating.

I can still remember as a child, watching the sweeping radar image from Tampa's WTVT Big 13 as thunderstorms would build across central Florida.

And, of course living in Florida brought the spectre of Hurricane season every summer and fall. My first real recollection is of Hurricane Donna in 1960.

Others would follow and our family would huddle in some motel waiting out the event watching our local weatherman (Roy Leep) guide us through.

Once I went to sea, I got an even more respectful view of the fury of storms from the Atlantic Ocean to the Tasman Sea.

In New Orleans, I dodged the bullet with Hurricane Andrew in 1992 but our collective luck ran out on August 29,2005 when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the Big Easy.

There was a time before Katrina, when in New Orleans the joke was "What seven things do you need to prepare for a Hurricane? Answer: A Six pack & Potato Chips.

Not Anymore.

In spite of going through Katrina, I still hold the fascination of weather (and now a whole lot more respect).

Today I ran across a new web site called Severe Studio. It is a weather geeks heaven.

Live cam feeds from storm chasers, Doppler radars and current weather warnings - its all here!

I also recommend Hurricane City if your interest leans towards storm's of a tropical nature.

Now don't get the wrong idea, while I love weather, it doesn't consume 24/7 .....

Pardon me, I have to go check the Weather Channel

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Dragons are Forever

From the Associated Press this morning....

Stranded Divers Chase off Komodo Dragon on Island

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Scuba divers swept away in strong currents survived 12 hours in shark-infested waters before scrambling onto a remote Indonesian island where they faced yet another threat: a Komodo dragon.

The divers — three from Britain and one each from France and Sweden — came face-to-face with the giant, carnivorous lizard on Rinca's palm-fringed beach, and fought it off by pelting it with rocks and pieces of wood, Pariman, a port official said Sunday.

Back in 1991, I visited the Island of Komodo while working on board the "Ocean Pearl".

One of the highlights of that season in Asia was treking through the brush with an Indonesian guide as we went in search of the giant lizards.

Armed only with a long stick, he took us to a clearing where we watched these giant beasts devore small animals.

I took quite a few pictures that day, here are a few.

Not to be taken lightly, the Komodo Dragon is a member of the monitor lizard family (Varanidae), it is the largest living species of lizard, growing to an average length of 6.5–10 ft and weighing around 154 lbs.

What does a Komodo Dragon Eat? ... anything it wants!!!!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Jim Nantz

CBS Sportscaster Jim Nantz has released a new book called "Always By My Side" - The story of his father's slide into the darkness of Alzheimer's Disease.

I haven't read the book yet .. but I will.

I first met Jim Nantz (and his wife, mother and father) in 1993 on board the cruise ship "Crown Odyssey". They were taking a cruise through Europe with long time friends Ed & Patti Goren (Ed, who originally hired Jim at CBS is now the head of FOX Sports).

The Cruise Director on board the ship came to me and asked me a favor. Being from New Zealand, he was unfamiliar with US Sports personalities and asked if I would liaison between the Cruise Line and the VIP's on board.

Knowing of Jim Nantz by reputation, I eagerly agreed. What followed was two wonderful weeks with Jim and his family.

Jim is without a doubt, one of the nicest, most accessible guys in the industry. From the moment we met, I knew he was the genuine article.

I had the pleasure of helping him judge a Sportcaster Competition (using silent Final Four Footage, contestants competed doing play by play commentary - we were all but on the floor laughing!) and even did some Greek line dancing together (fortunately, for both of our careers, photos have never surfaced) on the last night of the cruise.

I also remember his mother and father (James & Doris) well. This was just two years before the stroke that would start his Dad's downward spiral. Both were vibrant personalities and very proud of their son's acheivements.

Although I haven't seen Jim in years, I have enjoyed watching as his career has sky rocketed. It is sad that his father has been taken away from him in such a cruel way.

In a future blog, I'll tell a story on myself and Ed Goren.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Ed!!

A sad story crossed the wires this morning,

McMahon fighting foreclosure on Beverly Hills home


Apparently, the former sidekick to Johnny Carson on the "Tonight" show is in danger of losing his multimillion-dollar Beverly Hills home to foreclosure.

Documents show that McMahon is nearly $644,000 behind in payments on a $4.8 million mortgage loan he got in 2005.

The 85-year-old television personality has been unable to work since he broke his neck 18 months ago.

I worked briefly with Ed McMahon about six years ago in New Orleans. We were both hired by a Casino Gaming Company to promote the roll out of a new slot machine that paid homage to the golden age of Television.

Ed was basically an official greeter and I was "in character" playing Jackie Gleason's "Ralph Kramden" and hosting the booth.

After we were finished at the Convention Center, we were invited to a party at the Fairmont Hotel's Blue Room. I spoke with Ed briefly (he was very nice!) and even posed with him for a picture ( I was still in Gleason "drag").

I don't know the how Ed McMahon has fallen into this current situation, I do wish him nothing but the best!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Condo Living in Thailand

Most westerners opt to live in Condos in Pattaya.

There are many reasons for this - price, convenience, availability are paramount.

The fact that as a foreigner in Thailand you are not allowed to buy land means that buying a house is problematic. There are ways around it (ie: long term land leasing) but it's far easier to go the Condo route.

To say there has been a glut of condo building in Pattaya is an understatement.... and more are on the way.

As a result, buying a condo as an "investment" may lead to disappointment. Of course there are a lot of house owners in the USA discovering that too!

Buying or renting a Condo to "live in" makes much more sense.

You can buy a Studio Condo (43 sqm) starting around $35,000 these days. Three years ago, when the dollar was actually worth something, the same Condo could have been bought for about $28,000.

Still, a comparable Condo in the USA would cost four times as much.

Renting is even more of a deal. It's not uncommon to find a Condo available for under 10,000 baht a month (less than $300 a month). In fact, many older units can be had for considerably less.

After two years living on the beach in a condo, I'm sold on it!