Oh, you beautiful BURGER!

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



From left: Mother Trucker, Paper Butter and The Burger, Happy Fish and Jim's Burger

From left: Mother Trucker, Paper Butter and The Burger, Happy Fish and Jim’s Burger

This weekend’s American Food Fun & Family Fair is hunting for the perfect patty

VEGETARIANS will just have to bide their time this weekend while the rest of us in Bangkok relish that most popular of American exports, the burger. The second annual American Food Fun & Family Fair continues through Sunday at CentralWorld, and with it arrives the Great American Burger Competition.

Gifted cooks have been toiling all week to prepare exceptional burgers and side dishes in the hopes of winning a share of “old glory” and cash prizes.

Ten restaurants that specialise in perfect patties are vying for the title in the final round this afternoon. The judges will need well-honed taste buds. Spectators will need huge appetites.

“Last year’s fair and burger competition were a huge success and there’s been great demand for more,” says Sukanya Sirikeratikul, an agricultural marketing specialist at the US Embassy.

“The burger is always one of the first dishes that come to mind when we think of American food. It’s simple, but it can inspire a lot of creativity and also showcases the premium quality of American produce.”

The ready availability of high-quality ingredients everywhere in the world means the burger is no longer considered “junk food”, Sukanya says. It’s now a gourmet item, and – vegans, please skim ahead – can even be healthy. “It’s a fun, affordable food that everyone can enjoy.”

Chefs at the restaurants competing to create Thailand’s Great American Burger of 2016 and its side dishes have been required to use specific ingredients. On the list were apples from Washington (the robust northwestern state, not the US capital), one or more of the 10 cuts of American frozen potatoes, at least one of the seven types of cheese produced in California and, of course, US beef.

The chefs can season the meat beforehand but are permitted no other pre-cooking measures. Once in front of the judges, each has two hours to whip up five sets of burgers and side dishes. Points are awarded for hygiene and safety, taste and texture, creativity and mise en place, which is a French term, oddly enough, that refers to how well they set up beforehand.

The winning burger earns its maker Bt20,000 and the best side dish Bt10,000.

Pat and Ice, the couple who run Paper Butter and the Burger on Phaholyothin Soi 5, have their eyes on the prize this time after coming in second last year to 25 Degrees, one of the restaurants at the Pullman Bangkok Hotel G.

“For us it’s all about creating an easygoing and homey vibe,” says Pat, who developed a love for “outdoor foods” like burgers and other barbecue favourites while living in Australia.

“A burger doesn’t need to be fancy, but the quality has to be there. And our simple-looking burger is made of the best-quality ingredients we can afford to use and served in a friendly, no-frills way.”

The “burger” at Paper Butter and the Burger costs just under Bt200 and is worth not only that but also putting up with the navigation hassles getting there. It’s grilled fresh next to your table and very hearty.

Among the choices, the Very Cheeseburger on a whole-wheat bun is pretty amazing – and filling, it must be mentioned. The thick, juicy patty swims in melted cheddar.

Another one, the Chiang Mai Spicy Burger, was the one that won second prize in the burger competition last year. The northern-style spices and herbs infusing the patty are guaranteed to make your eyes water.

Pat’s keeping mum about his strategy for this weekend, and sounds a little too modest when he allows that it involves “a similar approach to last year”.

Also back for another try in the contest is Mother Trucker, which runs a fleet of roving food trucks and is renowned for its remarkable sauce-making technique.

The original food trucks to hit Bangkok streets choose a location, toss around a few tables and chairs and serve just two types of burgers – beef (Bt180) and pork (Bt150). Both contain a crunchy onion ring, crispy bacon, cheese, rocket leaves and 150 grams of all-natural meat that’s succulent and slightly smoky. But the secret weapon is the savoury and creamy Thousand Islands sauce that’s given an extra twist.

“Burgers tend to be fatty and heavy and you need something to cut the grease – that’s why we came up with this sauce, to balance all the flavours,” explains co-owner Mong.

” The portions are generous because we want to give value for money, but we don’t compromise on quality. We use a lot of local ingredients to control the cost, but they’re always the freshest we can find.”

New to the competition this year is Jim’s Burger, a two-year-old operation that has three branches in Bangkok and one in Pattaya, each with its own theme, ranging from a street-basketball court to a mock prison.

At the outlet in Yotse, set up to mimic a library, co-owner Maew says the plan is to impress the judges with playfulness, a nod to health and good old American flair.

“The highlight at Jim’s Burger is the bun – original buttermilk, charcoal, spinach and whole-wheat buns, all homemade,” says Maew, who spent a year in Connecticut in the US flipping burgers at both junk-food joints and gourmet restaurants. He came away determined to craft his own burgers. Now, he and his partners are thinking of actually opening a branch in the States.

Priced from Bt180 to Bt360, the choices include the Super BLT Pork Burger, US Kentucky Chicken Burger, the super-sized Apocalypse and, yes, Jim’s Burger. The sandwich that gave the chain its name has a beef patty that’s lean, neat and hearty, perfectly seasoned and expertly charred so it retains the juiciness.

It’s joined on one of those terrific buns by fragrant fried onions and a miniature gherkin, making every bite a little bit of Heaven for burger lovers.

“I’m still developing the recipe for the competition,” Maew says, “but it will be based on our signature Jim’s Burger. As for the side dishes, get ready for some seriously ass-kicking ideas.”

Another contest rookie is Happy Fish Bar & Bistro, located at Asiatique, which has recently gained its own legions of admirers thanks to its massive beef and lamb burgers. The spacious riverfront restaurant has an “underwater world” theme with colourful, cartoon-like marine creatures blowing bubbles in every corner.

While the decor is light-hearted, the Bt320 burgers cannot be taken lightly. Presented with fries on the side, the meat is seasoned with only salt and pepper, grilled over an open fire and popped onto a homemade bun.

“Most people don’t think of lamb as a meat for burgers,” says Apple, the chef and head of marketing. “But lamb is great for grilling and its slight gaminess can be tantalising when combined with the other ingredients in the burger. You’d be surprised how many people who don’t normally like lamb have fallen in love with our lamb burger.”

Also in the running at the Great American Burger Competition are defending champion 25 Degrees, Daniel Thaiger, Smashed Burgers, Full Moon Cafe, Lobster Burger and Hashtag Foodtruck. Regardless of who wins, they’ll all be serving their goodies throughout the three days of the fair.

The exposition has more than 50 booths offering gourmet products from the US. Yogurt Land, Emack & Bolio’s, dairy products from the California Milk Advisory Board, some sensational almonds and other nuts, Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples and a whole gamut of craft beers are among the items ready for sampling and on sale.

  • The second annual American Food Fun & Family Fair continues through Sunday in Square C at CentralWorld Plaza, daily from 1pm to 10pm.
  • There’s no admission charge.
  • The finals of the Great American Burger Competition start at 1.30pm today.

Looking good, FEELING BETTER

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



A four-day wellness workshop in Phuket unveils the path to a sustainable healthy lifestyle

IF YOUR immediate reaction to feeling out of balance with yourself is to rush to the gym and start one of those fashionable diets that promise to have you looking slim and feeling great in just a few weeks, take a deep breath and slow down. There are better, not to mention healthier and sustainable, ways of getting back in tune, according to the three leaders of the “reboot and re-energise your body and mind” workshop hosted last weekend by JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa.

Conceptualised and put together by the resort’s spa director, Linda Overman three years ago, this fourth wellness workshop saw the return of three Phuket-based practitioners – vitality performance coach Hayden Rhodes from RPM Health Club, nutritional specialist Craig Burton, and yoga practitioner Kim White.

“What we’re doing here is taking a look at the big picture of health, and health requires different segments – nutrition, movements and mindset,” Australian nutritionist with sports science background, Craig Burton, told XP.

“I think the word holistic sums up what we do very nicely, but these days ‘holistic’ is used very broadly and misleadingly for commercial gain. That’s why I prefer to use the word ‘function’. We all want to restore function to our bodies, to have more energy, to feel better and to look better. For me, clinical data like blood work are great indicators of what’s been happening in someone’s life. I believe in individuality, that everyone is different, and everyone needs a different diet and different movements.” Burton continued.

Our group of a dozen or so participants scanned the programme looking for the usual health retreat suspects like detox juice breakfast, daily colonics, raw diet lunch and fasting for dinner and to our relief, found nary a one.

“It’s the combination of mind, body and spirit.” New Zealander Hayden Rhodes, a performance coach and nutritionist who has worked with many professional athletes and celebrities, explained. “You have to look at your lifestyle and whatever is happening in your life to see what affects these three. You can’t focus on only one. As someone who has been through a lot of trauma, both physical and emotional, I can assure you that physiology is important but the mindset is equally as important. You can’t be happy if you’re not healthy, and how can you be healthy if you’re not happy?

“What we are doing is grounded in science, and complements modern Western medicine. Hospital doctors are usually overwhelmed by the number of patients they have to see and don’t have the time or the energy to go through the details of your life to identify the causes of your problem and work through it with you. Actually we are hoping to partner up with physicians who understand what we do and prescribe yoga or new diet plans instead of pills and supplements.”

A private consultation with Burton was the first workshop activity and he had us ticking boxes and answering several questions our lifestyle and diet. Each morning, Rhodes and White took turns hosting “gentle rise and shine” sessions using various movement techniques including a sunrise stroll along the beach and yin yoga, a slow-paced from of the ancient exercise regime focusing on stretching connecting tissues and joints.

“Over the years I’ve learned other aspects of yoga which go beyond the physical, and as a teacher I teach people to have a better idea of what yoga can do for them,” said White, who hails from South Africa. “Yoga is completely different for everybody. We all have different bodies, different abilities and different ideas of what we want to get out of yoga. I try to make people fall in love with the yoga that is good for them, to balance out their life from a yogi point of view. I give them guidelines so that they practise by themselves every day. Yoga is not difficult and everyone can do it.”

Totally refreshed and nicely stretched, we walked over to Ginja Cook, the resort’s Thai restaurant, where executive chef Dietmar Spitzer awaited with a nutritious and tasty breakfast. We fuelled up for the day with simple and healthy dishes like hummus and vegetables, nuts, muesli, rice milk, omelettes, fresh fruits and fresh fruit and vegetable juice.

“I don’t believe in fusion cuisine,” Spitzer explained. “Food should be straight forward. When the plate arrives, you should recognise what’s on it. Very often the simplest food is the best, especially when you have good quality ingredients. We work very closely with the local fishermen who bring their catch to our kitchens every day. We believe in local products and import very little and only when necessary.” The importance of a healthy breakfast was further underlined in a session led by all three experts, during which they suggested dishes both easy and quick to prepare.

A series of talks were held over the weekend. Burton explained how the ups and downs in cortisol – the stress hormone – affects our bodies in terms of weight gain, blood sugar imbalance, gastrointestinal problems and inflammation. In another talk he addressed the importance of hormonal balance which, when off kilter, leads to various health conditions including obesity.

Rhodes started his body fat talk by addressing common errors we all make trying when to lose weight. These include eating less, self detox, going on a diet, avoiding eating fat, starting running and even blaming our genes. Stress, he pointed out, is at the root of many diseases and therefore we should make every attempt to keep it to the minimum. Only then should we set realistic expectations of what we want to achieve.

“Always start simple and be conscious about the choice you make in creating new eating habit. Learn what food is good for you,” he told the group. After just four days, we did not of course walk out of the workshop looking any different. In fact, it is impossible to spend a few days in a wellness programme and come out completely changed. The way to sustainable healthiness is a life-long journey that demands both a mindful and practical approach, with advice and guidelines from experts, to achieve. And first, you need to really want to make that change.

“There is no cut-off age when it comes to health and well-being.” White said. “Come to us, or any practitioners that you trust, when you are ready to make a change in your life. Come before you get sick or start to have health problems. We don’t want to make you feel like a failure, and a lot of people do feel like failures because they only half want to do this, They’re not really ready, and instead of success they just end up with a bad taste in their mouths.”

The next inspiring wellness workshops will be held in May and September next year at JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa. The four-day programme is limited to 20 participants only.

For more information about the wellness workshop, contact Linda Overman, Director of Mandara Spa via email linda.overman@marriotthotels.com


Focusing senior minds

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



An award-winning neurofeedback cognitive training game developed by Chulalongkorn Hospital is helping the elderly stay away from dementia

With Asia’s elderly population projected to reach 922.7 million by the middle of this century, |scientists and medical personnel in every field are turning their attention to what can be done to make life easier for them and their carers.

Mobility is of course one of the problems but perhaps a more pressing one in Thailand is the cognitive decline that comes with ageing, with current statistics suggesting that more than eight per cent of the over-60s suffer from dementia.

In an attempt to forestall further decline in cognitive impairment, Chulalongkorn University’s Department of Psychiatry has developed an attention training system that it hopes will help |the elderly stay away from or |at least slows down the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s |disease.

The efficiency of the system was recently evaluated through a clinical trial for healthy elderly and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) patients through a neurofeedback cognitive training game developed by the department in cooperation with the engineering faculty’s Department of Computer Engineering and the National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (Nectec).

Sasaphin Louharanu, 66, is one of the group taking part in the evaluation. Wearing a mind control headset similar to those used in scientific experiments with 10 or so electrodes attached to her head, she stares at the screen which shows a cute animated bear. The bear stands still when the bar on the bottom left on the screen shines red and starts walking when the bar turns green. She has no joystick or mouse but controls the bear’s movements purely with her mind.

“If I try to think “walk faster, hurry!” it doesn’t work at all,” she says. “All that happens is that the bear stops moving. You have to clear your mind, pay attention to the character and then the bear

will start walking. If you don’t allow yourself to be distracted by anything, then it will work,” says Sasaphin, whose brain sends a signal to the screen via the headset, which is equipped with electroencephalography (EEG) capture, a brain-computer interface (BCI) that allows humans to control external devices by modulating their brain waves.

The control group has been playing the game for 15 minutes, two or three times per week and their attention ability has improved.

Dr Solaphat Hemrungrojn, of Chulalongkorn Hospital’s Cognitive Fitness Centre and the assistant dean for educational innovation and information at the medical faculty, explains that the NFT system comprises six game sets, which have been specially designed for the elderly. They estimate attention levels by investigating the power spectrum of Beta/Alpha wave bands – the brain waves related to attention – through the interaction with the game characters. Once the user focuses on the character, causing a rise in the Beta/Alpha wave, the good wave length will adjust the target object (the bear) and move

it according to the attention level.

The result shows on the screen, and this teaches the user how to create a good Beta wave. When this is repeatedly achieved, the user will improve their attention ability and eventually adapt the method for use in daily life.

Sasaphin is pleased with the progress she’s made at the Cognitive Fitness Centre. Unlike others in the group, she only started playing the game around two months ago, and says her memory has improved.

“All the activities I’ve done at the centre including playing the game have changed my life and made me a happier and more relaxed person. I kept forgetting and misplacing things but the

training has helped me to sort things out systematically,” says Sasaphin.

Even though neurofeedback cognitive training has been widely used for years, the game-based NFT is new. Chulalongkorn Hospital is the country’s first centre to apply the training to patients in the mild cognitive impairment and the results have been so significantly successful that the game was awarded the Gold Medal at the International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva in April.

The principle behind the game is to find the good brain wave related to attention efficiency. Attention is the ability to focus on specific information and maintain that focus for the required amount of time. In order for cognitive thought processes to perform, an individual must be able to pay attention to a particular detail of information and fully absorb the material being learned.

Moreover, the ability of sustained attention potentially leads to enhanced cognitive performance. Attention training provides a promising alternative method to help the elderly suffering from memory loss.

“Unlike medication, which is only effective for a while, this training an directly cure the symptoms. There are no side effects either,” says Dr Solaphat.

She does however caution that so-called attention enhancing games on the market will not have the same benefits as game-based NFT. Indeed, some might even have a detrimental effect on the mind.

“A game shouldn’t have too many tasks or require speed to accomplish them. A good game for the elderly mustn’t rush them. It should be user friendly game so that it can attract the elderly to keep playing. It will be useless if they are not interested from the word go,” she says.

Research into the NFT system has proliferated over the years. Most of the studies have focused on improving the subject’s cognitive state of attention, especially in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) patients. In this regard, the centre has also developed neurofeedback for ADHD.

“And we are very pleased with its success,” Dr Solaphat says.

There are only four game stations at the Cognitive Fitness Centre, which is located on the seventh floor of the hospital’s Sor Thor Building. Dr Solaphat is planning to give another 10 stations to network hospitals in different provinces this month.

Another two game stations for ADHD kids are available at the Child Psychiatry Department on the Por Por Ror Building’s 12th floor. Both places are open to those interested in playing. The fee is about Bt200 for 30 minutes.

Dr Solaphat and her team are working on adding more games and improving the existing ones. One constraint, of course, is cost, as the EEG capture headset costs more than Bt10,000. Her aim, she says, is to reduce it to just a few thousand baht so that the game can be used at home.


A passion for the food of LOVE

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



Aziz Shokhakimov

Aziz Shokhakimov


Young prodigy’s breathtaking performance wins prestigious Young Conductors Award at the Salzburg Festival

FANS OF CLASSICAL music and stage performance have been enthralled as the Salzburg Festival returned for its 96th year at Mozart’s birthplace in Austria with operas, plays and classical concerts.

As well, young, aspiring talents who catapulted their career to the international level with the Nestle and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award were also showcased. After wowing the audience with his rare talent, 27-year-old prodigy Aziz Shokhakimov from Uzbekistan became the seventh winner of the program.

From 86 contestants from five continents, three finalists were invited to perform at the stunning Camerata Salzburg concert hall at the Mozarteum Foundation to compete for the prestigious title that has launched promising careers in previous years. In addition to the classical-romantic repertoire, the finalists had to include their interpretation of a contemporary work.

This year’s finalists included Ciaran McAuley, from Ireland, who opened with an overture by Felix Mendelssohn’s “Das Marchen von der schonen Melusine Op 32” and took the audience on a sensorial journey with Mozart’s “Recitative and Rondo for Soprano and Orchestra K 374”, accompanied by soprano singer, Albina Latipova.


The contemporary work of his choice was Thomas Andes “Three Studies from Couperin” and he capped off the show with Schumann’s “Overture, Scherzo and Finale in E major, Op 52”.

British conductor Alexander Prior, 23, took centre stage with Per Norgard’s 1975 work, “Dream Play”, then delighted the audience with Mozart’s aria for soprano and orchestra K 583 “Vado, ma dove? Oh Dei!” with soprano Elbenita Kajtazi.

More classical works, Sibelius’s “Pelleas and Melisande Op 46” and Prokofiev’s “Symphony No. 1 in D major, Op 25” filled the hall with majestic sounds and long applauds as the concert concluded.

The winner, Shokhakimov, kicked off his concert with Jorg Widmann’s “Con brio”, followed by Mozart’s “Recitative and Aria for Tenor and Orchestra K 431 Misero! O Sogno” where Chinese tenor Mingjie Lei lent his powerful, captivating voice. The Uzbekistani concluded the concert with Beethoven’s “Symphony no. 7 in A major, Op 92”.

“It’s only logical for me to choose a number by Beethoven, because I adore the composer. And Jorg Widmann’s “Con Brio” is linked to Beethoven’s “Symphony number 7″. There’s a great connection between these two pieces, and it would make a great line up for the concert,” said Shokhakimov.

After the award ceremony he said, “Actually I love all of the composers, but there are some that are very close to my soul, such as Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Malher and Shostakovich.”

Born in Tashkent in 1988, he began studying at the Uspensky Music School for musically gifted children at the age of six. He first studied violin and viola, followed by conducting with Vladimir Neymer. He made his conducting debut with the National Symphony Orchestra of Uzbekistan in Beethoven’s fifth symphony and Liszt’s First Piano Concerto at the age of 13.

Shokhakimov has since made his widely acclaimed debuts with renowned orchestras such as the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra among many others.

“Music is my religion,” he said. “Whenever I open the score of a new piece I immediately feel inspired. I’ve never had any problems or difficulties so far with connecting to the musicians in the orchestras. I’m very determined to do my job, to have a great show and I believe they are hoping to do the same. Also, we are people who love music very much. If you really love music, they can feel it and we connect almost immediately.

“What I hope to achieve in life is to bring peace and joy through music. So I considered this experience at the Salzburg Festival a fantastic opportunity to make music with a renowned orchestra in front of an enthusiastic audience and with famous listeners in the jury such as Dennis Russell Davies, the chairman of the jury.”

Apart from the 15,000 euros cash prize, Shokhakimov will also conduct the Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna in the festival next year.

Nestle and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award was initiated by Nestle in 2010 to discover young conductors from all parts of the world and provide an important boost to their career.

“The connection between the award and Nestle is leadership,” Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Nestle SA, said.

“A successful orchestra can be delivered only if it is guided by an excellent conductor, and the same applies for a globally successful company. Our corporate motto, “in search of excellence” illustrates this very well. Both the conductor and the business leader need to display a high degree of leadership. With this initiative, we propose to offer young conductors a forum giving them an important impetus in their future careers.

“The career path of former award winners proves us right and we are very pleased. The Nestle and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award has been a decisive stepping stone to their world class success.”

The first winner, German David Afkham went on to showcase his skills around the world, and has been chief conductor of the Spanish National Orchestra in Madrid since 2014. The second winner, Ainars Rubikis from Lithuania, has led a production by Boris Godunow at the Bolshio Theatre, while the 2012 winner, Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, another Lithuanian, is the director of music at the city of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Ben Gernon, of Britain, who won the award in 2013, has worked extensively at orchestras all over the UK, while his successor French conductor Maxime Pascal has led Le Balcon, an orchestra specialising in contemporary music production.

Last year’s winner, Swiss Lorenzo Viotti earned huge success with his conducting of “La belle Helene” in Paris as well as “Carmen” later in Austria. Viotti also joined the festival this year and gave a magnificent performance in the Prize Winner’s concert.

The relationship between Nestle and the Salzburg Festival goes back 25 years, when the Swiss food company, the largest in the world, initiated the theme “young people and encouraging young talents” shortly after its involvement.

“The crucial criteria for our commitment were and are the quality and the innovative power of the festival – both are fulfilled by the Salzburg Festival,” said Brabeck-Letmathe.

“The art of combining tradition and innovation is a defining aim for us as an internationally active enterprise whose history goes back 150 years. When we started, there were quite a lot of negative remarks in the media insinuating that Nestle wanted to influence the programmatic and the artistic work, as well as the overall artistic orientation of the Salzburg Festival. Looking back at these 25 years, it is clear we never did that. The artistic freedom is highly important to us. Right from the beginning, our commitment has focused on youth promotion.”

Nestle has supported the Salzburg Festival for many years with its offer of subscription tickets for young people. In 2000, when Gerard Mortier was artistic director, the idea of presenting a concert by the Attersee Orchestra Institute at the Salzburg Festival was born.

Young musicians from all over the world had the opportunity to give a concert annually at the festival together with their teachers from the Attersee Summer Academy, under the baton of a famous conductor. “It goes without saying the sponsorship not only consists in financial donations, but also requires huge financial and personnel resources, which are a prerequisite to bringing sponsorship to life.” said Brabeck-Letmathe.

Application for Nestle and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award 2017 is open until February 1, 2017.

The Salzburg Festival 2016 continues till the end of this month. Visit http://www.Salzburger Festspiele.at/Summer.

More about Nestle and Salzburg Festival Young |conductors Award at http://www.Salzburg Festival.at/Nestle_YCA


In that galaxy, FAR, FAR AWAY

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher

Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher

Three generations of Star Wars fans in one family

Three generations of Star Wars fans in one family


Star Wars fans gather in London for a blow out weekend of celebration, collectibles and chats with stars and industry insiders

STAR WARS FAN from all over the world converged on the British capital last weekend, gathering at the ExCel exhibition centre for the latest Star Wars Celebration.

With tickets sold out months in advance, the eleventh celebration in the overall series and the third hosted by the UK, kicked off last Friday for three full days of sci-fi splendour with galactic creatures in full, elaborate costumes posing and interacting with other fans. An event “by fans, for fans”, Star Wars Celebration also featured licensed shops offering Star Wars-related merchandise. And in addition to the t-shirts, posters, figurines, toys and costumes, there was fan art, Star Wars-inspired shoes plus kitchenware, bed linens and blankets.

Shopping and collecting aside, celebrants were treated to exclusive panels with actors in the Star Wars franchise including Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa), Anthony Daniels (3-CPO) and John Boyega (Finn) and autograph signing sessions with various others. Directors, executives and the masterminds behind the story made special appearances, answering questions and dropping hints about the films to come.

“I’ve always been a big fan of Star Wars, and coming here with my wife and son, who is growing into Star Wars fan, is such a great experience,” a man in a jedi master costume told us as we queued for one of the panel sessions.


“It’s welcoming, it’s fun and it’s fulfilling because it’s not just about dressing up and buying figures. It’s about solidarity and celebration. The stories of Star Wars and the characters have touched me in many ways at different points of my life. To have these fellow fans showing up with such enthusiasm and love really warms my heart. This is very special experience. No other film has a celebration of its own like this!”

The love of Star Wars of the fans certainly runs deep. After acquiring those hard-earned tickets last year, they stood for hours in line to get a wrist band that allowed admission to each panel session and then queued up for several hours before the panel started to get the best seats.

“It’s worth every minute,” the same fan told us. “I would really kick myself if I couldn’t get in.”

Created by George Lucas in 1977 as a cinematic endeavour, “Star Wars” was an overnight success, spinning off several sequel and prequel trilogies and spawning an entire spectrum of entertainment media including animation films and series, books and video games. The Celebrations were launched in 1989 in Denver, Colorado and have been organised regularly ever since.

“I think of the key strength of Star Wars is that it doesn’t hang on one character,” Pablo Hidalgo, creative executive with the Lucasfilm Story Group, told XP.

“There is no one character you must have for a Star Wars movie and that differentiates us from other franchises. When you have a franchise that weighs on one character, for example a superhero, it hinges on the actor who is that superhero. And when he or she decides to leave, you have to start telling the story all over again.”

The Lucasfilm Story Group was set up in 2013 to keep the continuity, the connectivity and most importantly, the legacy of Star Wars’ unique storytelling.

“A lot of it comes from years of working with George Lucas and the way he develops stories.”explained Hidalgo, who like many at Lucasfilm, came from the fan community.

“You should be able to strip away all the Star Wars stuff and find a central core of the story that is interesting – then add Star Wars later. We also have characters that people are interested in, so we have the best of both worlds. In “Rogue One”, you will meet characters that you haven’t met before. You don’t what their story is, but you understand the history around them. ‘The Force Awakens’ proves it: Rey, Finn and Poe were well received and these are new characters. Fans don’t only want to be reunited with the characters they love, they want new stuff, too.

“‘The Force Awakens’ was designed as an entry point for new viewers as the new characters are strong enough by themselves. But I’m a purist, so my recommendation would be to start with the original films. For bite-sized entertainment, our animated contents are very solid. We’ve seen a lot of people coming to Star Wars from ‘Clone Wars’ and ‘Star Wars Rebels’. These are not ‘Star Wars for kids’, but Star Wars expressed through animation with the same storytelling DNA done by the same team,” Hidalgo said.

At the end of this year, fans will get to enjoy an anthology film “Rogue One”, directed by Gareth Edwards and starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker and Mads Mikkelsen. The original cast and other familiar characters will be back for “Star Wars Episode 8”, directed and written by Rian Johnson, in December 2017 followed by another anthology film about the early life of Han Solo in 2018, with Alden Ehrenreich portraying the young galactic smuggler.

The next Star Wars Celebration is at the Orange County Convention Centre in Orlando, Florida, from April 13-16. Tickets are available at http://www.StarWars Celebration.com


OF ALL THE fan groups of Star Wars around world, the 501st Legion is probably the most recognised and dedicated. Made up entirely of volunteers with screen-accurate costumes, the Legion, which was founded in South Carolina back in 1997, now has more than 8,000 active members in 50 countries.

Here, the 501st Thailand Garrison currently has up to 40 members and is expanding, thanks to the revival of the Star Wars franchise that has made Star Wars “cool again”.

“Four years ago, if you searched for ‘Star Wars fan Thailand’ on the Internet nothing came up except the 501st Thailand Garrison. There were no Star War toys or costumes in the stores so finding the Garrison came as a real relief to me and helped me settle in Thailand,” says Bangkok-based Londoner Martin Readhead of 501st Thailand Garrison.

Readhead says he became hooked on the fantasy after watching “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” in 1983.

“And like most kids, I grew out of it. There were other things that kept me busy and I forgot about Star Wars until my son came along. I introduced him to the original Star Wars trilogy and fell back in love with it myself. It’s a great way of escaping reality. Whenever you’re having a bad day and need to get away, you watch Star Wars.”

“I didn’t realise that I could do more as a fan until I discovered the 501st Thailand Garrison. Joining the group is probably one of the best decisions I have made in my life. I have met so many people through this group, and we have become a big, ever-expanding family,” says Readhead, who is known for his Darth Maul impersonation.

The 501st Legion is not all about cosplay and posing for cameras. Their motto, “bad guys doing good”, underlines their contribution to the society as much as their passion for the cinematic brand.

“We help raise money for children-related charity and orphanages and visit kids in schools and hospitals. Our contribution is voluntary, and we do not accept payment. Sometimes when there is no event, we just put on our costumes and go for a walk around town – just to make people smile. So if you see us walking about, come say hi and take pictures with us.” Readhead says.

Join the legion at Facebook.com/501Thailand.


A place for your PRIDE

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation




A national archive everyone shares, The Pride of Thailand awaits your story

SINCE 1916 the National Archives has done a wonderful job of preserving the Kingdom’s invaluable documents, images and books, but now there’s a chance for everyone to add to that official history.

The Pride of Thailand – initiated by retail giant Siam Piwat in partnership with other members of the private sector, the National Identity Foundation and the Prime Minister’s Office – is a new kind of archives for the digital era. Fully democratic since everyone can contribute, it will be accessible to all as well, a searchable treasury of cultural assets shared online.

The Pride of Thailand represents the country’s first attempt to record historic and cultural events with the help of the general public. The first phase – collecting the information – is underway and will continue through September. After that, all of the submissions will be displayed on the website, and then at a gallery that’s now being built.

“The Pride of Thailand was born out of the gratitude we have for Thailand as the land where we live and make a living,” Siam Piwat chief executive Chadatip Chutrakul, the project’s founder, said as plans were unveiled earlier this month.

“We are so fortunate to be born in a country of many glories and precious things.”

Siam Piwat and Iconosiam mustered corporate and government interest in the project, touting it as an historic partnership that would encourage citizens to take pride in being Thai and show to the world that “Thailand is second to none”.

“The Pride of Thailand will truly be successful only through the participation of all Thai people,” Chadathip said. “We aim to assemble the greatest number of precious stories in history, the pride of Thais and of Thailand. We have to reach all groups of people, including the younger generation. We’ll use online channels, celebrities and thought-leaders so we can reach people in every community and get them to join the initiative to help us build a digital treasure-trove of photos, videos and stories.”

Lieutenant Dr Suvit Yodmanee said the National Identity Foundation, of which he is vice president and secretary-general, wants the project to represent the “pride, honour and dignity of Thai people”. It should also “be an encouragement for youth to follow the good paradigm of national identity so they can improve themselves and take part in developing our country by presenting the identity, civilisation, wisdom and valuable ways of Thais”.

Suvit said a key goal is to “promote morality among young people, which will help create positive energy as a contribution to developing and preserving things in Thailand. They will be a great contribution to local communities and our country.”

Aiming to offer the most comprehensive search engine on Thailand and entirely public-generated content, the archive will have room for any contribution from and about any form of culture and sub-culture.

The contributions will be arranged in nine categories. “Royal activities and learning in life with the royal initiatives”, “Important people” and “Thai cuisine” lead the list, the last covering everything from fine dining to street food and from cooks to ingredients.

“Places and architecture”, “Arts” from the traditional to the contemporary, “Crafts and handicrafts” old and new, and “Customs, culture and lifestyle” address the country’s creative and social aspects.

Finally there are “Wisdom, education and innovation” and “Sports and miscellaneous” – the latter ranging from professional sports to leisure recreation and virtually anything else that doesn’t fit into the other eight categories. People wanting to make a contribution can do so digitally or by regular mail.

In the first case, you have to upload to the website a digital photo (five megabytes or less in JPG format) or video (15MB or less) and a 200-word narrative. Posts can be imported from Facebook. Users of the Line app can make submissions directly to the project’s Line account.

Via the postal service, make the address PO Box 1, Klongchan, Bang Kapi, Bangkok 10240. Contributions can also be dropped off at any Village Health Volunteers or Boy Scouts field office across the country or with participating private firms and government offices.

Contributors retain copyright to whatever they submit. Examining each submission is a panel of experts that is helping to manage the overall presentation of the information in reflecting the Thai identity, economy, society, wisdom and valued ways of life.

The website is updated daily as submissions come in. Visitors can hover the cursor over any pin marking the provinces on the map of Thailand to see the latest contributions from there in each category. In this way the online presentation doubles as a promotion for cultural tourism, not just for Thais but also foreigners planning to visit the country.

“The Pride of Thailand should be able push forward the economy by sharing the great |and precious stories of Thailand by Thai people, be they about tourist attractions, agricultural produce, Thai dishes, Thai people themselves, the culture, the traditions or the Thainess that is so adored by foreigners,” said Kalin Sarasin.

“These stories will together form an important source of information that directly helps support tourism by creating value,” said Kalin, speaking for the tourism and private sectors’ MICE promotion efforts. “They will make the local wisdom more widely known, increasing the efficiency and competitiveness of local products and services.

“As a result, overseas tourists will be encouraged to visit and spend more time and money in Thailand. It’s a way to help increase income for local communities and elevate Thai tourism in the long term.”

The deadline for submission in the first phase is September 30.

See the project evolving |online at http://www.ThePrideOfThailand.com.

Hot off the PRESS

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation




Scoffing at publishing woes, the Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Tan and Time Out shore up the Thai magazine trade

THAI MAGAZINE readers had a few less publications to thumb through by the end of last year as declining readership and advertising revenue drove some out of business, but 2016 already has at least four new ones – not just on the streets but also online.

Thais aren’t reading less – the National Statistical Office says 48.4 million of us spend an average of 34 minutes a day reading – but the format’s shifted from printed page to pixels. Under threat, many established print magazines radically altered strategy, but not all were successful in converting to digitalism, and those that couldn’t adapt ended up dying.

Just six months into 2016, though, we’re seeing new players riding the ground shift and four new brands freely sharing their content in both digital and print formats.

One is The Hollywood Reporter Thailand, launched in March. It’s the Thai edition of the starry-eyed American magazine founded in 1930. Focusing on literally everything that’s of interest in the entertainment industry and Hollywood’s intersections with fashion, finance, the law, technology, lifestyles and politics, it’s offering Thai readers insight scoops, exclusive interviews and insider analysis. You can get daily updates on its website and via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, while the print version is distributed free of charge on the first and third Thursdays of every month at BTS and MRT stops and in cafes and restaurants.

Riding along with The Hollywood Reporter is its sister magazine, Billboard Thailand, which is aimed at music lovers. Also debuting in March, the Thai edition goes out free every Thursday to the same outlets and carries daily updates at its own online platforms.

“Billboard is all about music and its cultural by-products,” says the editor-in-chief, Onsiri Pravattiyagul. “We’d like to think we offer a wide range of music-related content as well as music experiences, regardless of style or genre. We move aggressively online as well as at creative events. Personally I enjoy our columns where new faces get discovered. Our cover stories are also fun to read as well because they’re so well informed.”

Billboard Thailand is currently the country’s only music magazine following the demise of Thai-owned Music Express after 25 years in print and a few years online. “I believe in the synergy between print and |digital,” Onsiri says. “Strong content will always be the most important factor, whatever platform you |choose to deliver on. I don’t have a definite opinion on our future, but we’re trying our best to do what we believe in.”

Another newcomer in March was Tan Thailand, a monthly priced at Bt60 and proffering the unique concept of “outdoor culture”. It’s for folks who enjoy going out – and not just into the wilds of nature. It covers fashion, travel, lifestyle trends and health, as well as outdoor activities.

“The magazine grew out of my passion for travelling,” says its founder, popular rapper Apisit “Joey Boy” Opasaimlikit, who’s listed as creative |director. “A travel magazine doesn’t have to be all about fancy hotels, expensive destinations or photogenic destinations. It can be about travelling for a purpose – whatever your purpose is.

“Tan is meant to be a bible for travellers, a magazine that urges Thais to get out more, experience more and have more fun in their own individual way. And, since Thailand is a world-renowned destination, the stories are in both Thai and English so that foreign tourists and expats can get|the same information.”

Joey Boy says the thrust of the publication comes down to happiness, but perceptions of happiness vary. “A lot of people work hard to get more money and be happier, but then they might realise that they could just as easily step out and enjoy different kinds of activities that don’t require a lot of money.

“We haven’t set a target age group for readers because Tan is for everyone who’s young at heart,” he says. “If you like doing fun things, we have something for you!”

“People said it was a bad call to launch a magazine right now, but I don’t really care about that. This is something I’ve always wanted to do, even if it wasn’t going to last that long. We’re multi-platform anyway, so besides the print edition we also have our website, Facebook, Instagram and a YouTube channel and we organise a lot of events.”

Last month Bangkok became the latest member of the Time Out Group of publications that originated in England. Time Out Bangkok is also free and available in print form, online and as a mobile application.

“Time Out is basically an insider’s guide to the best things in the city – restaurants, bars, shops and things to do,” says editor-in-chief Top Koaysomboon. “While we generate our own content, we’re also authorised to re-purpose content from other cities too. So, while you keep yourself updated on new cafes and restaurants, you also get to read exclusive interviews with Hollywood stars and Brit-pop musicians.”

Famed for frank reviews and the absolutely latest event listings, Time Out first appeared in London in 1968 and now has editions in 109 cities and 39 countries.

“When it comes to restaurants, bars, hotels and happenings, we prioritise the digital media,” Top explains. “We have a team taking care of the website and mobile app. We have around 300 or 400 venues listed online and the number is growing. The phone app, which utilises content from the website, will be active soonest. Its users can offer comments on any reviews.

“Our main target groups are Bangkok residents and visitors ages 20 to 14 who want to get the best out of the city.”

The app will also connect with various start-up businesses so that users can make restaurant reservations, book hotels, summon taxis and contact other services.

Time Out Bangkok is in English and is distributed for free on the 1st and 16th of every month at the Skytrain and subway stations, cafes, malls and restaurants. A Thai version will be available on its website starting in September.

Building blocks for reform

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation




A group of 29 artists join together to help PDRC Foundation president Suthep Thaugsuban build a vocational school

Formed during the People’s Democratic Reform Committee-led anti-government protests in late 2013, a group of artists known collectively as Art Lane were back together last week not to demonstrate but to raise funds for the building of a vocational college for Thailand’s young people.

Eleven paintings were created for the “Art Lane #9” charity gala dinner organised by Pacific City Club and the PDRC Foundation and were auctioned off at the event, raising an impressive Bt9 million. Almost half came from the final bids on two works: “Mythologies”, an oil on canvas by Supawat Wattanaphikowit, which went for Bt2 million and “Blue Mya”, a charcoal and watercolour on paper by Sakwut Wisesmanee, which raised for same amount.

The funds are destined for the realisation of Phawana Phothikhun Vocational College, a project proposed and supervised by the PDRC Foundation.

“Phawana Photikhun was the name of the revered Phra Phawana Photikhun, the first abbot of Wat Suan Mok,” says Suthep Thaugsuban, the foundation’s president and the brains behind the school.

“It’s a place for educational reform following the path of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. The school will offer training in tourism, hotel management, accountancy, computers, secretarial skills, foreign languages and cooking. It will be the first vocational college to train its students in a profession as well as intensively educate them in dharma. The goal is to produce good and efficient members of society. All of the students will be on scholarship and reside in the dorm at the campus, so they do not have to shoulder any expenses. In exchange for that, they have to work for the college and practise dhamma daily,” he adds.

The foundation has already purchased 42-rai of land in Na Muang, Koh Samui, Surat Thani province and a reservoir is currently being constructed to serve as a water source for the college. The land has been prepared, and construction will begin in at the end of this month, with an aim to be ready and open in the academic year 2017. It will be a model college, Suthep says, with more colleges of the same type to follow in other provinces.

Last week’s event also launched an exhibition of more than 30 paintings including the 11 auctioned, by 29 famous artists, among them Sakwut Wisesmanee, Chalit Nakpawan. Nopadon Chotasiri, Jitsing Somboon, Surapon Saenkum, Phaithoon Chongthong, Prasit Wichaya, Cholasinth Chorsakul, Sirirath Iamsakuldacha, Watana Kreetong, Sakwut Wisesmanee, Phansa Buddharaksa, Pornsawan Nonghapha, Tanadol Derujijaroen, Jaruwat Boonwaedlorm, and Chaiwoot Thaimpan.

Amrit Choosuwan, who heads up Art Lane, says the group hopes through its activities bring about a better, peaceful and sustainable of society. Each of its eight prior events has taken place at a different place and in a different context.

“This time our aim is to promote of education for future good careers. We are confident that students who graduate from our school will be useful to society,” says Amrit, whose mixed technique “Canna Flower in Van Gogh Garden” represents the spirit of old-style painting and new technology.

Chaiwoot’s oil on canvas titled “Fish Fry” is an interesting example of hyperrealism, a genre of painting resembling a high-resolution photograph.

“I live in a rural area and like to spend time walking around the fresh market. My work usually reflects daily life, like this painting of the deep-fried fish that my mother cooks. I took the photograph and then painted it.”

For “Party Lit”, Chalit says he was inspired by the bonding of the world and the universe. “I believe that everything has a bond, either directly or indirectly. Humans destroy nature causing global warming. The environmental destruction then affects our lives. Likewise, if we hurt ourselves, it’s not just us that feels the pain but also those who love us. We need to be more aware of these bonds,” he explains.

Cholasinth’s “Flow B 2011”, an original edition of his Flow series, is also about the flow of life. “Art takes time to crystallise,” he tells XP. “The artist must remain open to ideas.”

On the wall

The art exhibition continues until July 17 at the Pacific City Club on the 28th floor of Pacific Place, a short walk from BTS Nana station.

It’s open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 to 11am and from 2 to 5pm.

Those wishing to visit at other times should either make an appointment by registering at the reception counter on the ground floor or call (02) 258 2045.

Visitors are invited to donate towards the school.

Travel plans made PERFECT

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



Expedia is looking to use your facial muscle response to help make your holidays happier

A RECENT SURVEY by a British marketing firm revealed that a massive 80 per cent of us today book our vacations online and that nine out of 10 of us use the Internet to research all aspects of what we can expect to find at our chosen destination.

While Expedia Inc, a leading global player in the online travel market, is well aware of the figures, it has also come to understand that the planning of a holiday is a surprisingly stressful endeavour. To try and make the lead-up to a well-earned vacation to lessen those levels of stress, it has turned to the medical world.

The travel giant recently flew journalists from all over the world to its headquarters in the US state of Washington to introduce its new Innovation Lab, which uses electromyography or EMG to understand how and why people shop and book their holidays.

EMG, which is used extensively in the medical world to assess the health of muscles and the motor neurons and to some extent, in the video game design process to gauge player emotions as they proceed through the levels, assesses facial muscle movement to determine the subjects’ emotional state while browsing through their website.


It’s an expensive process but, says Scott Jones, vice president of Expedia’s Global Product Design and User Experience division, the results are worth every cent.

“A holiday sounds great fun, but planning it is usually not,” Jones says. “It is expensive and it involves a lot of decision making, pressure and expectations. Our research found that people tend to shop around online for months in advance, looking for the best deals out there and making sure they’re taking the right decision. On average, holidaymakers run at least 48 searches for flights and 22 for accommodation before making bookings – that’s a lot of effort. After all, unlike other e-commerce products, you can’t return a holiday, and you have no way of knowing how good your choice is until you’re there.

“Our job, besides giving them a vast selection of products to choose from, is to make sure our service on all platforms benefits them the most, and assist them in finding what they’re looking for at ease with the least stress, so they can finally get to the most fun part of the trip: planning what you’re going to do where they get there. Obviously you can’t plan anything until you know how you’re getting there and where you’ll be staying,” Jones says.

In the lab, participants of random background, age and gender, are asked to browse through the Expedia website to look for flights, accommodation and whatever else they consider essential on their trips. They are hooked up to an eye tracker and face sensors that measure movement of the muscles around the forehead and mouth – ones that indicate emotions more prominently. Specialists, sitting in an adjacent room, then analyse their emotions as they go through their quests, and ask them questions to confirm the results.

“From the experiments we have some ideas of why a consumer is frustrated. He or she can’t find the filter she’s looking for, tries to figure out two room types that look exactly the same but whose prices are significantly different, or wants more information about the location of the hotel. We then take this information to our product development team and figure out how to serve our customers better and give them better experiences.” Jones explains.

“We also run tests and experiments across departments because every little detail counts, and after all, a good holiday is made up of the little things.”

In 2015 alone, Expedia spent a staggering $830 million on tech and content. And later this year, Expedia will set up another lab in Singapore to run studies for the Asia-Pacific.

Expedia, of course, serves more than just users; it also has to keep its suppliers happy. And the numbers are high. To accommodate the demands of more than 15 million flight shoppers and 28 million hotel shoppers on Expedia across the website, mobile app and other devices in 33 countries, Expedia offers 269,000 hotels and 1.2 million vacation rentals in 200-plus countries, 200,000 cruise staterooms to book online, 475 airlines, 150 car rental companies and 15,000 unique activities in hundreds of destinations.

“The suppliers must have a good experience of doing business with us too if we are to make the market lively and beneficial to all,” explains Benoit Jolin, vice president for LPS Global Product.

“We encourage competition and interaction between users and suppliers to further develop the products and hence enhance the consumers’ experiences through the new feature, Expedia Partner Central.”

Launched in January, the rollout is designed as an easy-to-use platform that opens the lines of communication between booked guests and hoteliers via a message centre. Guests can start a conversation by asking a question or submitting a special request at time of booking. Alternatively, the hotelier can reach out directly to the guest.

“We give the suppliers real time feedback from customers, so they can prevent those “bad reviews” from ever happening.” Jolin says.

“Also, we help the suppliers to tread through the market more wisely by showing them how customers look at their products, how prices change, who they have lost their bookings to and other information that ensures they serve their customers better and know how to take advantage of the market.”

On the Web:





Hope on the reading front

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation




Thais are spending more time reading, but millions have yet to catch the bug

The good news is that Thais are reading more. The bad news is that fewer Thais are reading.

That’s the bittersweet word from the National Statistical Office, whose sixth “Survey on Reading of Population” determined that Thais now spend on average twice as much time reading as they did two years ago.

The same poll of 55,920 households across the country in 2014 and 2015 also found, though that the percentage of the public who read declined in that time from 81.8 to 77.7.

The office says 48.4 million Thais read and spend an average of 66 minutes a day at it. Younger people are more avid – children six to 14 read 71 minutes a day and youths 15 to 24 devote 94 minutes a day to the written word.

Among the working population ages 25 to 29, the average time spent reading each day is 61 minutes. Senior citizens 60 and up are reading 44 minutes a day.

“We were very proud to learn that Thais are spending more time reading, although the number of readers has decreased,” said Pattama Amornsirisomboon. The director the government’s Human Resource Development Bureau presented the results of the survey during a seminar on Wednesday at the National Book Fair at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre.

Citing limitations in the data she and other speakers at the seminar weren’t sure why fewer people are reading.

More than 83 per cent of those contacted filled out the survey questionnaire, Pattama said, the highest number since the first poll in 2003. “This was the fourth time we included pre-school children under six in the survey and the first time we asked about reading from online sources and e-books.”

The context was narrowed, however, to reading outside the workplace and the classroom and excluded email, letters and chat messages.

“Ideally we’d like to do this survey every year, but often there are more pressing matters on the national agenda that we have to work on, so it’s conducted every two to three years,” Pattama said.

“Also, it has to be kept in mind that these are preliminary findings – more specific studies are needed to answer more specific questions, such as whether it’s better to have more readers or people reading longer. And why aren’t 22.3 per cent of the respondents not reading? That represents 13.9 million people in the overall population! Plus, how do we determine the quality of the reading time?”

What the latest survey could assess was that readers still prefer printed reading material (96.1 per cent) over the social media (45.5 per cent) and websites (17.5 per cent). Meanwhile e-books – widely seen as a key tool in promoting reading – gained slightly in popularity in the past two years (1.9 per cent).

More than 67 per cent of the respondents read print newspapers, while 51.6 per cent get their news online, often from the social media, and nearly 40 per cent stick to magazines. The news remains the most-read content, followed by material related to general knowledge and entertainment.

There are some indications as to why a lot of people read nothing at all. The five reasons most often cited, in descending order of prominence, are a preference for television, lack of interest, lack of time, inability to read and finally visual problems.

“I can’t really say why we’re reading more and it would be quite a challenge to find out,” Federation of Thai Printing Industries president Jaran Homtienthong observed.

“I personally think it’s because of ready access to the Internet and the social media, which encourages people who might not like reading novels or long articles to spend more time reading. The limited space for posts and comments on the social networks keeps the reading brief and there’s a lot of informative graphic content.

“But, once you get hooked on reading, you want to explore a subject more and get the full version. You become more curious and feel inspired to look for more in-depth information.

“If you’re a reader,” Jaran said, “you’ll read on any platform. It’s not a question of the reading material – it’s more about how to encourage people to read more. We need to find ways to get those 13.9 million people reading.”

While kids under six are happy enough being read to, the survey found, 2.7 million of them are budding bookworms, spending an average of 34 minutes a day reading on their own. Unfortunately there are also a lot of tykes who can’t read and aren’t being read to – because their parents think they’re too young for it.

“Children are our best chance to build a nation of readers, especially from birth to age three,” said Sudjai Phromkerd, manager of the Reading Culture Promotion Programme.

“Starting reading from infancy enhances children’s linguistic skills, which in turn improves their learning ability throughout life. Studies have found that people with better language skills learn more easily and are better at analytical thinking and more receptive to complex ideas. It’s much simpler instilling this skill set early on rather than later in life.

“In Thailand,” Sudjai said, “400,000 students dropped out of school in the past decade because they ‘couldn’t learn’, and this is a problem that can be traced back to their early childhood. Encouraging reading when children get to school is too late – it’s much more effective to start at home, very early.”

Sudjai urged parents to read to their children and give them picture books, even before they learn to talk. “You’ll see wonderful results. A lot of children who are regularly read to by their parents quickly learn to read by themselves. And, when parents read to children, a deep bond develops, and the kids gain the ability to feel compassion towards others.

“You don’t need to read to them 34 minutes a day – just 15 minutes is more than enough. Reading not only makes your kids smart, it makes them caring, understanding and kind people, too.”

Go get a book

The 44th National Book Fair continues at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre through April 10, daily from 10am to 9pm. There is no admission charge.

Until Monday the 2015 “Survey on Reading of Population” is on display as an infographic exhibit in the Eden Zone on Level 3 of CentralWorld Plaza.