Thursday, July 31, 2014

Damning evidence

A must watch video from filmmaker Kalyanee Mam who has been given a platform by the New York Times to highlight the plight of the Chong people in Cambodia's Areng Valley. Recommended viewing @
A Threat to Cambodia's Sacred Forests highlights the effects of one of the 17 dams the Cambodian government has given the thumbs up to. Mam's debut feature-length documentary, A River Changes Course, won the grand jury prize for world cinema documentary at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tasting success is always sweet

Receiving my winners medal as the PPCFC press officer

Phnom Penh Crown won the Cambodian League Championship on Sunday. Thoroughly deserved. It was their fifth success and the 2nd since I joined them as press officer in 2011. It was nice to get a medal from the Minister of Sport alongwith the players and coaching staff. They deserve it a lot more than me of course, but everyone at the club does their bit to help things along. The pictures have been plastered all over Facebook and the club's website if you want to see more. Here's three for posterity. Thanks to the photographers, Masayori Ishikawa, Pou Neang and Mouen Rasmey. Crown lost only two matches all season and rounded it off with a 2-1 win over our nearest rivals Boeung Ket on Sunday. That left us 7 points clear and beating the Rubbermen on the final day made it all that much sweeter.
Receiving the trophy, I'm trying to get a picture, far left

With the trophy and Adriano Pellegrino, our Australian playmaker


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Into the sticks

Adorable kids in Kompong Speu
Trips out into the Cambodian countryside should be top of everyone's list. The Khmers are so welcoming and are one of the main reasons I decided to up sticks and come to live here all those years ago. This picture is from September 2010 and I'm taking a well-earned breather with a few of my dancing partners including Srey Keo, Longny and Srey Phen (all sitting), in the village of Khlaeng Poar Tboung in Kompong Speu, where I went with the Cambodian Space Project for a village party. In the photo below, I'm at Tonle Bati and was the only visitor, so the flower girls dogged my every move. Channa in pink was adorable and her English was far too good to be selling flowers, she should be translating business documents for a multinational company! Get out into the countryside now, you will be rewarded with great memories and will encounter lovely people.
More adorable flower sellers at Tonle Bati


Friday, July 25, 2014

Comedy cul-de-sac

Comedy night at Equinox this evening was okay, a few guffaws, at least one belly laugh but I get very bored with practically a whole set talking about drugs. Figures suggest 1 in 3 people have taken illicit drugs in their lifetime, so jokes about drugs are leaving two-thirds of the audience cold - unless comedy audiences are more susceptible to drug jokes than your average joe. I suggest comedians select topics that the majority of people will relate to, not the minority. I enjoyed the bill-topping Graham Wooding but he seemed to run out of steam and tailed off, while Devin Monaghan chose drugs as his main vehicle of comedy.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chonburi interlude

With Dany, the team manager - courtesy of Chonburi FC
Spent Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in Thailand, Chonburi to be precise. No-one bothers with Chonburi, which is an hour plus south of Bangkok, but we did as the Phnom Penh Crown Academy were playing their final match of their Asia U-16 competition. We lost 1-0 to the home team, the competition faves, on Monday night, but we put up a bloody good fight and I am proud of the youngsters for the battling qualities they showed. Especially after Chonburi beat us 8-3 at our place last week. Well treated by our Thai hosts and the AirAsia flights, one of the competition sponsors, were spot on. The Crown Academy have now finished their matches, ending up in third place in a table of five teams, all from different countries. A much better showing than last year and with 4 wins in their 10 games, the boys did particularly well away from home. The picture shows me in a rather concerned looking pose at the manager's meeting before the game.
The boys and staff before we leave for Thailand


Monday, July 21, 2014

Musical troopers

Judging by the pictures and videos I've seen on Facebook, it looks like the return of the prodigal sons, Steel Pulse, to their Handsworth, Birmingham roots on Sunday went down extremely well, though I hear the set had to be cut short due to time restrictions (there were suggestions that the band were late on stage). So they then went onto a local pub and carried on the music. Would've loved to have been there to witness it. Not sure when my next opportunity to see the band play live will happen - I think the last time I saw them in person was way back in late 2005...can that be right? Nearly a decade ago!


Friday, July 18, 2014

Belly laughs required

The Comedy Club Cambodia returns to Equinox on Friday July 25. Thailand-based comedian Graham Wooding from the UK will headline a brilliant line up of top acts for just $3. Starts at 9pm and supporting sets will come from Saigon stalwart Devin Monaghan of the US and pioneering Cambodian comic Vatthina Tola, while Scottish rib-tickler Roddy Fraser will compere. With recent events inside and outside the Kingdom, we will need some cheering up.


Deepest sympathies

The loss of life on the Malaysia MH17 yesterday was a devastating tragedy. It crashed on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, in circumstances that are still not clear. It became even more acute when I heard that Lidwina, a colleague of mine at Phnom Penh Crown - she's the team's physio - lost her brother Tallander on the flight. He was coming to Asia to meet his siblings. My deepest sympathies go to Lidwina and her family back in Holland. Losing loved ones is the hardest thing to deal with. I know.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

When We Were Young

Battambang-born singer Jimi Lundy has released his latest single, When We Were Young, today on iTunes @ Top man is Jimi.

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

We win again

At the final whistle the celebrations begin
Phnom Penh Crown won the Cambodian League with two games to spare tonight, beating old rivals Naga 1-0. Thoroughly deserved championship success, winning all 9 of our second round matches so far. It was a bit nervy at times tonight but we got our just rewards for doing things the right way. Good guys DO come out on top sometimes. It's the second championship success since I joined the club back in 2011. Hope there will be many more. Above is my pic of the guys celebrating at the final whistle, as well as a few snaps below courtesy of pro snapper Masayori Ishikawa.
Coach Sam Schweingruber leads the celebrations
The Crown players acknowledge their fans
Head coach Sam Schweingruber gets a drenching from his players


Monday, July 7, 2014

Into the wilds of Cambodia

Amir Aczel's new book, Finding Zero
I've mentioned Amir Aczel before. He's been called a pop idol of the science-writing world no less. A lecturer in mathematics and the history of maths and science, and the author of a series of popular books on the same subjects. Seventeen no less. Amir's next book is due out in January and Cambodia will loom large in it, with a reference to me thrown in for good measure. The book is called Finding Zero: A Mathematician's Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers, a 265-page tome that the publisher's blurb describes as follows:
The invention of numerals is perhaps the greatest abstraction the human mind has ever created. Virtually everything in our lives is digital, numerical, or quantified. The story of how and where we got these numerals, which we so depend on, has for thousands of years been shrouded in mystery. Finding Zero is an adventure filled saga of Amir Aczel’s lifelong obsession: to find the original sources of our numerals. Aczel has doggedly crisscrossed the ancient world, scouring dusty, moldy texts, cross examining so-called scholars who offered wildly differing sets of facts, and ultimately penetrating deep into a Cambodian jungle to find a definitive proof. Here, he takes the reader along for the ride. The history begins with the early Babylonian cuneiform numbers, followed by the later Greek and Roman letter numerals. Then Aczel asks the key question: where do the numbers we use today, the so-called Hindu-Arabic numerals, come from? It is this search that leads him to explore uncharted territory, to go on a grand quest into India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and ultimately into the wilds of Cambodia. There he is blown away to find the earliest zero - the keystone of our entire system of numbers - on a crumbling, vine-covered wall of a seventh-century temple adorned with eaten-away erotic sculptures. While on this odyssey, Aczel meets a host of fascinating characters: academics in search of truth, jungle trekkers looking for adventure, surprisingly honest politicians, shameless smugglers, and treacherous archaeological thieves - who finally reveal where our numbers come from.
I think I may come under the jungle trekkers looking for adventure category rather than being a shameless smuggler or treacherous thief. I hope anyway. Can't wait.

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Friday, July 4, 2014

Rainy season edition

yes that's Rumnea under that raincoat
The What's Up magazine for Phnom Penh, which gets better every time I see it, has an interesting cover for their bumper two-month rainy season edition, out this week. Nick Sells of Kampuchea Party Republic took the photo to highlight that its rainy season and coerced Rumnea into being the model, who had to stand in a raincoat and under an umbrella while they poured water over her for the length of the shoot. She tells me it took nearly 4 hours to get it right. And all we get to see are her eyes and nose.

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Beam her up

Savy, in a still from Zero G
It's coming very soon. What? The new video single by Savy, of course. Cambodian babe Savy Som caused a storm with her catchy singalong debut single, About A Boy earlier this year and she's been quick to follow it up with Zero G, which will be out in a matter of days. Think of Barbarella and Star Trek and you are on the right track. Her Sci Fi-inspired new single, much of which was shot precisely where a slew of Star Trek episodes and scenes from the movies were filmed, looks set to continue Savy's rise in the pop world. Clad in a black catsuit and running around Vasquez Rocks (near Los Angeles) in the midday sun was a tough ask, but she manages it particularly well. But I will say no more about Zero G until its released. In the meantime, enjoy About A Boy again.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Open-air, indoor cinema-cum-dining

The exterior of Le Palais des Anges
I visited a new hotel at the end of last week. Thirty rooms are open for guests so far out of 70. The top two floors are not yet finished, which includes the roof-top swimming pool and sky-bar. What is open is the hotel restaurant, called Phkar Romyool which has an unusual feature. The renovated three-storey restaurant used be known as Cine Hawaii, when it was built in the 1930s. It was a cinema. So the Khmer-German owners of the new hotel have decided to make the building double-up as a dine-while-you-watch theatre. The only original feature that remains after renovations is a floral emblem above the space where the screen stood. Tables and chairs face a blank white canvas onto which films are projected after dinner. Everything is open to the sky – an extendable roof can be closed if there’s a threat of rain. Painted yellow on the outside to make it look French colonial in style, Le Palais des Anges is called a boutique hotel, but with seventy rooms that's fifty more than what I would term boutique. I have a bee in my bonnet about the term boutique. The hotel is a cricket-ball throw from Phnom Penh's renovated Central Market, which is also bright yellow, so the two go together. Message to owners of all colonial-era buildings, paint them bright yellow, so we know where they are.
This bathtub will be replaced by a swimming pool fairly soon

The indoor restaurant which doubles as a cinema


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