19 September 2021

The Queen’s Gambit

Chess grandmaster Nona Gaprindashvili is suing Netflix for defamation, and seeking $5 million in damages. Her lawsuit relates to the final episode of the Netflix miniseries The Queen’s Gambit, released last year. In the episode (titled End Game and directed by Scott Frank), a chess commentator compares the lead character, Beth Harman, to Gaprindashvili: “The only unusual thing about her, really, is her sex. And even that’s not unique in Russia. There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men.”

The lawsuit, filed on 16th September at the Federal District Court of Los Angeles, claims that “Netflix brazenly and deliberately lied about Gaprindashvili’s achievements” and describes the reference to her never having faced men as “manifestly false, as well as being grossly sexist and belittling.” The episode is set in 1968, by which time Gaprindashvili had played competitive chess against dozens of male players, though The Queen’s Gambit is a drama series, and is thus surely entitled to artistic licence.

18 September 2021

Specter

Specter
Specter
Specter Specter
Specter
Specter Specter
Specter
Specter Specter
Specter Specter
A new exhibition marking the 45th anniversary of the 6th October 1976 massacre opened today at Angoon’s Garden in Bangkok. Specter (ปีศาจ), organised by the protest movement Thalu Fah, runs until 14th October. Its full title, ปีศาจแห่งกาลเวลา (‘devil of time’), comes from a novel by Seni Sawaphong. Like last year’s Unmuted Project, Specter includes some risqué artworks, and its opening was monitored by police officers.

Most provocatively, a crown has been added to Gustav Corbet’s L’Origine du monde (‘the origin of the world’), turning Corbet’s painting into a pejorative. The exhibition also includes portraits of protest leaders Panusaya Sithjirawattanakul (who attended the opening), Arnon Nampa, and Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan by Sina Wittayawiroj.

Figures from Neal Ulevich’s iconic 6th October photograph inspired many of the artworks, including paintings of the hanging corpse, the man wielding the chair, and the laughing boy. Another 6th October press photo is exhibited on the floor, and a mannequin and folding chair are suspended from a tree. There is also a small painting of Choomporn Thummai and Vichai Kasripongsa, the two men whose extrajudicial hangings precipitated the 6th October massacre.

17 September 2021

New Abnormal

New Abnormal
New Abnormal
In a series of static shots and long takes, Sorayos Prapapan’s satirical short film New Abnormal (ผิดปกติใหม่) takes aim at Prayut Chan-o-cha and his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. (Apichatpong Weerasethakul has also drawn attention to the issue, in a speech at the Cannes Film Festival.) In one sequence, a paramedic reveals the scale of the problem: “It’s already mid-2021, our country’s people is still only less than 10% vaccinated.” Sadly and shamefully, the statistic is accurate.

Another scene eavesdrops on a meeting between Prayut, deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan, and a civil servant. When the bureaucrat asks about bailouts for businesses affected by the lockdown, an irritable Prayut barks back: “Why do you always hand me problems? It’s tiring enough acting as Prime Minister, you know!” Meanwhile, Prawit remains slumped in his chair, fast asleep (as is often the case in parliament). Prayut is played by Phayao Nimma, who also portrayed the PM in The Cave (นางนอน); in the credits, he’s described as “Stupid Prime minister who did coup” [sic].

The film ends with a recreation of an anti-government protest (on a small scale, given the low budget), which is dispersed by riot police with water cannon, tear gas, and rubber bullets (the latter heard but not seen). In the last shot, wisps of tear gas swirl slowly around a solitary rubber duck. The end-credits song is an anti-government anthem based on the Hamtaro (とっとこハム太郎) anime theme tune.

Sorayos’s equally satirical Prelude of the Moving Zoo premiered at ANIMAL KINgDOM last year, as did his documentary Yellow Duck Against Dictatorship. His parody Dossier of the Dossier (เอกสารประกอบการตัดสินใจ) was shown at the 30th Singapore International Film Festival, and his comedy Auntie Maam Has Never Had a Passport (ดาวอินดี้) played at the 18th Thai Short Film and Video Festival.

15 September 2021

Signes de Nuit

Signes de Nuit
Please... See Us
This week, Documentary Club is hosting Signes de Nuit, a festival of short films and documentaries. The event, now in its seventh year, will take place predominantly online due to the coronavirus pandemic, though some films will be shown at Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok.

Doc Club and Pub is the new venue for Documentary Club, after its previous collaborations with Warehouse 30, Lido Connect, and House Samyan. Documentary Club took over the space from Bangkok Screening Room, which sadly closed in March.

Chaweng Chaiawan’s Please... See Us will be shown at Doc Club and Pub on 19th and 20th September. Chaweng’s powerful film features an extended sequence in which a pig is killed and dismembered, the helpless animal being a metaphor for the plight of ethnic minorities in Thailand.

Please... See Us was also shown as part of Wildtype 2021 earlier this month. Signes de Nuit begins online today and runs for a week. (Films at Doc Club and Pub are currently screened on a large TV in the café/bar, as cinemas in Bangkok are still subject to the coronavirus lockdown.)

11 September 2021

Orson Welles Portfolio

Orson Welles Portfolio
Vogue Paris
Orson Welles was not only one of the world’s greatest film directors, he was also a pioneer of radio drama and modern theatre, and a prolific artist. Orson Welles Portfolio: Sketches and Drawings from the Welles Estate, by Simon Braund, features full-page reproductions of drawings and paintings by Welles, sourced from his archive and the Library of Congress. The illustrations are beautifully reproduced, though there are no notes or other references.

Most of the images are previously unpublished, and those that were published before (drawings for Everybody’s Shakespeare and watercolours—including a regal self-portrait—for a guest-edited issue of Vogue Paris) had been out-of-print for decades. The book also includes an interview with the director’s daughter Beatrice who, in Wellesian terms, had final cut over the project: strangely, copyright is credited not to Braund but to “Beatrice Welles Inc.”

Welles created a portfolio of watercolours as a Christmas present for his daughter Rebecca in 1956, and a facsimile was published as Les Bravades after his death. He presented the BBC TV series Orson Welles’ Sketch Book, in 1955. The documentary The Eyes of Orson Welles also explores Welles as a visual artist. Karl French’s book Art by Film Directors includes paintings and drawings by other filmmakers, though not Welles.

Pink Man Story

Pink Man Story
Pink Man Story is a lavish and complete retrospective of Manit Sriwanichpoom’s long-running Pink Man (พิ้งค์แมน) series, photographs featuring the incongruous figure of Sompong Tawee in a bright pink suit, a symbol of consumerism and superficiality. A small exhibition of Pink Man photos was due to be held at BACC earlier this year, though it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For the group exhibition History and Memory (ประวัติศาสตร์ และ ความทรงจำ), Manit created Horror in Pink (ปีศาจสีชมพู), digitally inserting Sompong into news photographs of three Thai massacres. In the exhibition catalogue, Manit explained that he was inspired by the inexplicable election of Samak Sundaravej, and his artist’s statement is reprinted in Pink Man Story: “Was this not the same Samak who back in October 1976 went on radio to urge that brute force be used against pro-democracy protesters, in the events that culminated in the most horrifying massacre in Bangkok history? I asked myself: Has everyone forgotten? Does ‘October 6’ mean nothing to us now?”

Pink Man Story includes a detailed analysis of Horror in Pink by art critic Iola Lenzi—A Man for Our Times—in which she discusses the “historical amnesia” that inspired the series. It also reprints Ing Kanjanavanit’s essay Poses from Dreamland (ท่าโพส จากแดน ช่างฝัน), which was first published in the catalogue for Manit’s Phenomena and Prophecies (ท้าและทาย) exhibition. (Ing’s essay has been somewhat over-edited in Pink Man Story: its first page is mistakenly printed twice, and half of the original text has been removed.)

04 September 2021

Wildtype 2021

Wildtype 2021
Official Trailer
Rajprasong
Prelude of the Moving Zoo
The Bangkok Bourgeois Party
Please... See Us
Wildtype 2021, a weekend of film screenings curated by Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa, takes place today and tomorrow on YouTube. The screenings will also be shown at Ar(t)cade, a venue at the Arcade Market in Phayao. Both days include Politix, a selection of short films commenting on Thai political events.

This evening’s Politix strand begins with Veerapong Soontornchattrawat’s Official Trailer (อนุสรณ์สถาน), which intercuts footage of the 6th October 1976 massacre with clips from Love Destiny (บุพเพสันนิวาส), a popular historical lakorn. This is followed by a film referencing another massacre: Nil Paksnavin’s Rajprasong (ราชประสงค์), which ends with a black screen and the jolting sound of eighty-seven gunshots, representing the victims of the 2010 military crackdown in downtown Bangkok. (Rajprasong was previously shown at Histoire(s) du thai cinéma, another two-day film event programmed by Wiwat.)

The highlight of the evening is a more recent film, Sorayos Prapapan’s Prelude of the Moving Zoo, which begins subversively with a cylinder recording of the royal anthem, accompanied by footage of penguins seemingly standing to attention. (It was previously shown at ANIMAL KINgDOM, also programmed by Wiwat; and it was selected for the 24th Short Film and Video Festival.)

Wildtype concludes tomorrow, and the second Politix strand includes Prap Boonpan’s The Bangkok Bourgeois Party (ความลักลั่นของงานรื่นเริง), in which a group of yellow-shirted Bangkokians murder a man merely because he disagrees with their ideology. Less than a year after it was first shown, this dystopian satire became a reality when Narongsak Krobtaisong was beaten to death by PAD guards in 2008.

Chaweng Chaiawan’s Please... See Us, which highlights the displacement of ethnic minorities, will also be shown tomorrow. This new film includes an extended sequence in which a pig is killed and dismembered, the helpless animal being a metaphor for the plight of ethnic minorities in Thailand. It will also be shown later this month as part of Signes de Nuit, hosted by Documentary Club.

I Alone Can Fix It

I Alone Can Fix It
Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker’s I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year is billed as “the definitive behind-the-scenes story of Trump’s final year in office.” With much-anticipated Trump books from Bob Woodward (Peril) and Maggie Haberman around the corner, it’s too early to judge I Alone Can Fix It as definitive, but it is a chilling and authoritative account of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the 6th January storming of the Capitol.

Just in case readers were in any doubt as to the authors’ position on Trump, the prologue itemises his flaws: “He displayed his ignorance, his rash temper, his pettiness and pique, his malice and cruelty, his utter absence of empathy, his narcissism, his transgressive personality, his disloyalty, his sense of victimhood, his addiction to television, his suspicion and silencing of experts, and his deception and lies.” (To which I would add: his undermining of institutions.)

Surprisingly, though, there are moments early in the COVID-19 crisis when Trump said and did the right things. In a 7th February 2020 call to President Xi, he pressed for US access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (“All you have to do is issue the visas and they’ll be there”); and in an 11th March 2020 meeting, he recognised the need for a ban on travel from Europe (“We can’t get these lives back. We can make the money back. We’ve got to shut it down”). (These events were also covered, in less detail, in Woodward’s Rage, though according to Woodward, the Xi call took place a day earlier.)

Like Leonnig and Rucker’s previous book, A Very Stable Genius, I Alone Can Fix It’s ironic title is taken from a typically braggadocious Trump quote. Trump declined an interview request for that earlier book and, as the authors explain, he “attacked us personally and branded our reporting a work of fiction.” Consistently inconsistent, Trump then readily agreed to an interview for the second book, wining and dining the authors at Mar-a-Lago. (“For some sick reason, I enjoyed it”, he tells them after the interview, which appears in the book’s epilogue.)

Most of the other sources are quoted anonymously, though it’s clear that Trump campaign manager Chris Christie and former Attorney General William Barr were among the major sources. A self-serving Christie portrays himself as the voice of reason, as he did in A Very Stable Genius, here contrasting his advice to Trump with Rudy Giuliani’s wild conspiracy theories.

The most extraordinary quotes are those attributed to Mark Milley, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who apparently “saw parallels between Trump’s rhetoric of election fraud and Adolf Hitler’s insistence to his followers at the Nuremberg rallies that he was both a victim and their savior.” Astonishingly, Milley describes Trump’s undermining of the election as “The gospel of the Führer.”

Aside from A Very Stable Genius and Rage, I Alone Can Fix It is one of a dozen Trump books reviewed here during and after his presidency. The others are: Fear, Fire and Fury, Inside Trump’s White House, The United States of Trump, Trump’s Enemies, The Trump White House, Too Much and Never Enough, The Room Where It Happened, Team of Five, American Carnage, and The Cost.

03 September 2021

La Télé d’ici Vacances

A television presenter in Ivory Coast has received a one-year suspended jail sentence for promoting sexual assault. Yves de M’Bella, the host of La Télé d’ici Vacances (‘TV here on holiday’), was also fined $3,600 after he invited a man to demonstrate with a mannequin how he had previously assaulted women. The guest, Kader Traoré, was jailed for two years and fined $900. The programme was broadcast on 30th August by NCI.

02 September 2021

A Minor History

A Minor History
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s new exhibition A Minor History (ประวัติศาสตร์กระจ้อยร่อย) opened yesterday at 100 Tonson Foundation in Bangkok. The work is a video triptych, filmed at a derelict cinema in Kalasin and other locations along the Mekong river. Apichatpong has previously written of his attachment to stand-alone cinemas in an essay for Unknown Forces (สัตว์วิกาล), reprinted with an English translation in Once Upon a Celluloid Planet (สวรรค์ 35 มม). The Mekong directly inspired his films Mekong Hotel (แม่โขงโฮเต็ล) and Cactus River (โขงแล้งนำ), though he has also filmed numerous other projects in the region.

A Minor History also includes a short story in text form, which describes a dream featuring Patiwat Saraiyaem (using his nickname, Bank). Patiwat is an actor and mor lam singer who was jailed for his performance in the play เจ้าสาวหมาป่า (‘the wolf bride’) and was subjected to further lèse-majesté charges after he took part in an anti-government protest on 19th September last year. He previously appeared in Apichatpong’s segment of the portmanteau film Ten Years Thailand, and Wittawat Tongkeaw recently painted his portrait, titled The Unforgiven Blues (หมอลำแบงค์).

A Minor History was originally scheduled to open on 19th August, though it was delayed due to the coronavirus lockdown. Attendance is currently by appointment only, again due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the exhibition will close on 14th November. A second phase opens on 25th November, and runs until 27th February next year. 100 Tonson, previously a commercial gallery, became a non-profit foundation last year.

Apichatpong’s latest feature film, Memoria, won the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film received a standing ovation, after which Apichatpong memorably declared: “Long live cinema!” With coronavirus vaccines in short supply and the registration system in disarray, he also used his Cannes acceptance speech as an opportunity to call on the Thai government to “please wake up, and work for your people, now.”

01 September 2021

Snap

Snap
Snap
In Kongdej Jaturanrasmee’s Snap, released in 2015, a high school reunion rekindles an old romance, and the film trades heavily on Millennial nostalgia, though—as in Kongdej’s other films—there is also a political undercurrent in the background. News of the 2014 coup is mediated through newspapers (a man reading the Bangkok Post, with a headline about martial law) and television (the female lead doing her ironing while the coup announcement is broadcast). Likewise, Kongdej’s Sayew (สยิว) begins with a radio news report on the ‘Black May’ massacre, and his Tang Wong (ตั้งวง) is punctuated by TV news updates on the red-shirt protests, making him one of the few mainstream genre directors whose films address Thailand’s political crises.

31 August 2021

“We should not have
published the article...”

The Sun
In an out-of-court settlement, The Sun has paid damages to cricketer Ben Stokes and his mother, Deborah, after they sued for invasion of privacy. The lawsuit was in response to a Sun story published on 17th September 2019, which dredged up a “secret family tragedy” that took place in 1988.

The newspaper initially defended the article, written by Nick Parker, as it was based on public records of the incident from New Zealand newspaper archives. In a cursory apology published yesterday, The Sun said: “The article caused great distress to the Stokes family, and especially to Deborah Stokes. We should not have published the article. We apologise to Deborah and Ben Stokes.”

PDF

23 August 2021

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
On the film prints, it was Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood. On the posters, it was Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood. (Note the wandering ellipsis.) On the cover of Quentin Tarantino’s novelisation of his own film, it’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. (Nary an ellipsis to be seen.)

The book doesn’t just tweak the title, it changes the entire structure. The film’s audacious climax is glossed over in a few paragraphs, a quarter of the way through the book: “Rick and Cliff made short order of the housebreakers, killing all three in a brutal fight.” There are also plenty of minor changes, from soundtrack switches (“A Day in the Life emanates from the car radio,” replacing a perfume commercial) to scene transpositions (the meeting with Marvin Schwarz takes place in his office rather than a restaurant).

Not surprisingly, the novel adds a great deal more backstory to the main characters, and gives some of the supporting characters (including spunky Trudi Frazer) additional scenes. The death of Cliff Booth’s wife is explained unambiguously, and we learn far more about Cliff’s past, including (somewhat implausibly) his favourite Akira Kurosawa films. Some of the extra material, including amusingly pretentious dialogue from Sam Wanamaker (“sexy evil Hamlet”), appears as blu-ray bonus footage.

There are some self-referential Tarantino quotes and cameos, such as a conversation about gourmet coffee (“none of that Maxwell House rotgut”) and lines like “Oh, you didn't hear me? Let me repeat it” that recall Pulp Fiction. That film’s “tasty beverage” line recurs, as it does in Death Proof. We learn that Trudi starred in “Tarantino’s 1999 remake of the John Sayles script for the gangster epic The Lady in Red” (the irony being that, in reality, he wouldn’t adapt a pre-existing script). His stepfather Curt Zastoupil also appears, and Rick Dalton signs an autograph “to Curt’s son, Quentin”.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: A Novel is not literary fiction, but nor is it pretending to be. Tarantino is reviving and deconstructing the film novelisation, giving him plausible deniability: any run-of-the-mill prose is merely paying homage to the form. Regardless, as you would expect from Tarantino, the dialogue is often superb.

18 August 2021

ในดินแดนวิปลาส

Democracy Monument
ในดินแดนวิปลาส: บันทึกบาดแผลสามัญชนบนโลกคู่ขนาน (‘in the land of madness: recording the wounds of ordinary people in parallel worlds’) was written by a female journalist who has covered the legal persecution of anti-coup activists, including various high-profile lèse-majesté cases. Like ห้องเช่าหมายเลข 112 (‘room number 112’), her book tells the human stories behind the headlines. The author is credited pseudonymously as รัช, a contranym meaning both ‘king’ and ‘dust’ (a subversive reference to ‘dust under the feet’, a Thai phrase emphasising the subservient position of subjects in relation to their monarch).

The cover illustration (also credited to a pseudonym, La Orng) shows a chess piece (the king) and Democracy Monument on opposite sides of the scales of justice, with the scales tipped in favour of the king. The journal Read (อ่าน) made the same point with infographics in its January-March 2013 issue. On the ในดินแดนวิปลาส cover, Democracy Monument is splattered with blood, and today Thalu Fah protesters draped body bags with fake blood over it, symbolising the unvaccinated victims of the coronavirus pandemic (as photographed by Voice TV).

Images of Democracy Monument have been used to make similar political statements on other book covers. Wad Rawee’s การเมืองโมเบียส (‘Möbius politics’) depicts it as a military complex in a dystopian future, Jakkapan Kangwan’s Altai Villa (อัลไตวิลล่า) shows it under construction—as does the June 2012 issue of Sarakadee (สำรคดี) magazine—and on the cover of Sulak Sivaraksa’s หกทศวรรษประชาธิปไตย (‘six decades of democracy’), it is represented as a jigsaw with one piece (containing the constitution) missing.

เหมือนบอดใบ้ไพร่ฟ้ามาสุดทาง

Human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa was the first anti-government protester to call for reform of the monarchy, at a rally in 2020. He was arrested earlier this month, following a speech marking the first anniversary of that event. His portrait was painted by Witawat Tongkeaw, who dubbed him Captain Justice (ทนายอานนท์).

Arnon published a booklet outlining his proposals for a truly constitutional monarchy, สถาบันพระมหากษัตริย์กับสังคมไทย, and he cowrote a booklet with a manifesto for monarchy reform, ปรากฏการณ์สะท้านฟ้า 10 สิงหา. They have recently been translated into English by PEN International online, as The Monarchy and Thai Society and The Day the Sky Trembled, respectively.

Arnon’s first book, however, was a poetry collection published in 2011. One poem, เหมือนบอดใบ้ไพร่ฟ้ามาสุดทาง (‘we subjects, as if mute and blind, have found ourselves at the end of the line’) also provided the title of the collection. It describes the legal persecution that followed the 2010 Ratchaprasong massacre, when red-shirt activists were charged with arson.

Arnon defended many of the accused, and the poem highlights the injustice of their trials. It concludes with a call to arms, which was eventually answered last year when the student-led anti-government protests began in earnest:

“So the law has turned to the rule of dogs;
We subjects, as if mute and blind,
Have found ourselves at the end of the line:
Submit or die—no other way.

History must be written in lives
To get the wheel of time unstuck;
Fly the red flag, friends, show your pluck:
Revolt! Bring down the robber regime!”

The book’s cover, by Kullawat Kanjanasoontree, reimagines Picasso’s Guernica as a depiction of the 2010 massacre. It was included in the Art for Freedom (ศิลปะเพื่อเสรีภาพ) exhibition at the Pridi Banomyong Institute in 2013, under the same title as the book and with an alternate English translation, As Blind as the Dead End. The Sanam Ratsadon website features two poems from the collection, newly translated by Peera Songkünnatham.

17 August 2021

“พบกระสุนปืนค้างอยู่บริเวณก้านสมอง”

Rajavithi Hospital
Yesterday, after the 9pm coronavirus curfew, clashes between riot police and anti-government protesters continued at Sam Liam Din Daeng in Bangkok. Police deployed rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannon to disperse the protesters, as they have on an almost daily basis throughout this month (most recently on 15th August). Last night, however, police at Din Daeng also fired live ammunition, shooting at least two people.

One of the victims, a boy aged only 15, was hit in the neck. He is currently in a coma at Rajavithi Hospital, and the hospital issued a written statement this morning to confirm that they had discovered a bullet lodged in his brain stem (“พบกระสุนปืนค้างอยู่บริเวณก้านสมอง”). When the statement was issued, his name and age were not known, though he was identified by his mother this afternoon.

Late last night, Din Daeng Police denied using live ammunition. This morning, they claimed that live rounds were fired by an unknown civilian, though there is no evidence of any such assailant. Live bullets were last deployed by police in Bangkok on 18th February 2014, after PDRC protesters fired at them. Abhisit Vejjajiva directed the army to use live ammunition against red-shirt protesters in April and May 2010, leading to the deaths of almost 90 people.

The Four

The Four
The New York Times
Financial Times
The Economist
Financial Times
Esquire
Financial Times
The Economist
Financial Times
Scott Galloway’s book The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google analyses the impact of the 800-pound gorillas of online technology: “Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are the four most influential companies on the planet.” Galloway calls them “the Four Horsemen,” and Nick Bilton (author of Hatching Twitter) made the same point in a November 2017 Vanity Fair article: “The four horsemen of the coming economic apocalypse—Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, and Facebook—have already flattened entire industries.” (Alphabet is Google’s parent company.)

Referring to the same tech oligopoly, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt called them the “gang of four” at the D9 conference in 2011: “Obviously, one of them, in my view, is Google, the other three being Apple, Amazon, and Facebook.” Schmidt and Jared Cohen discussed the same four brands in The New Digital Age: “We believe that modern technology platforms, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, are even more powerful than most people realize”. The Wall Street Journal (on Boxing Day 2012) assessed the rivalry between the same four firms (“Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook vs. Amazon”).

The Economist (on 1st December 2012) also highlighted the same quartet: “THE four giants of the internet age - Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon - are extraordinary creatures. Never before has the world seen firms grow so fast or spread their tentacles so widely.” In a cartoon for the magazine’s cover, David Parkins depicted the companies as giant squid. Continuing the cephalopod metaphor, an article by Galloway in the March 2018 issue of Esquire featured an illustration by Andrew Rae representing the four companies as a giant octopus. Cartoons by Matt Kenyon in the Financial Times showed the so-called FAANG group (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) as a mechanical octopus (on 23rd April 2018), and (minus Netflix) as a steam train (on 17th June 2019) and a teetering robot (yesterday).

Farhad Manjoo has also written extensively about this group of big tech giants, initially in a Fast Company (November 2011) cover story: “Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon battle for the future”. Adding Microsoft to the mix, Manjoo calls them “the Frightful Five” and his 6th May 2017 New York Times column featured an illustration by Doug Chayka showing a raft formed from the five logos. A photomontage by James Ferguson in the Financial Times on 15th November 2017 showed the same five as UFOs over New York. The cover of The Economist (22nd February 2020), by Justin Metz, shows them as five charging robotic bulls.

15 August 2021

“We will not try to defeat riot police.
We will defeat General Prayut.”

Voice TV
Riot police have fired rubber bullets at anti-government protesters in Bangkok for the fourth time this week. As on previous occasions, this evening’s clashes took place at Sam Liam Din Daeng, when protesters were blocked by shipping containers from reaching Prayut Chan-o-cha’s residence. A relatively small group of protesters threw small explosives (including fireworks, as photographed by Voice TV) at police, who deployed rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannon to disperse them.

Today’s main rally was a Car Mob event organised by Sombat Boonngamanong and red-shirt leader Nattawut Saikuar, though the stragglers at Din Daeng were not part of this event. Once clashes between demonstrators and police began, Nattawut left the Car Mob to urge the protesters to leave, saying: “We will not try to defeat riot police. We will defeat General Prayut.” Riot police also fired rubber bullets at the same spot on 10th, 11th, and 13th August, and they have now been used on ten occasions this year.

14 August 2021

Thalu Fah

For King and Country
Riot police have fired rubber bullets at anti-government protesters in Bangkok for the third time this week. On all three occasions—10th, 11th, and 13th August—protesters gathered in the afternoon at Victory Monument before marching towards Prayut Chan-o-cha’s residence on Vipavadee Rangsit Road. With access blocked by shipping containers at Sam Liam Din Deang, the protesters threw firecrackers, while riot police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them.

Yesterday’s protest was organised by Thalu Fah. Although the rally officially ended shortly after 5pm, some stragglers remained and fought street battles with riot police. They also burnt a police booth at nearby Ratchathewi. Again, these events were a carbon copy of those on 10th and 11th August.

One protest leader, Tanat Thanakitamnuay, was hit in the eye by a rubber bullet. In 2010, he drove his Porsche into a crowd of red-shirt protesters, though he recently switched sides and joined the anti-Prayut movement. He appeared in the 2014 Vice News documentary For King and Country, which followed him and his fellow overprivileged, spoilt young royalists as they drove around aimlessly in their supercars.

13 August 2021

“Mike Lindell is begging to be sued...”

Dominion Voting Systems has filed defamation charges against right-wing cable TV channel One America News and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell. The lawsuit, filed on 10th August, seeks $1.6 billion in damages for “false and manufactured stories about election fraud.” (An egregious example is ‘Dominion-izing’ the Vote, a segment first broadcast by OAN on 21st November last year.)

OAN also broadcast Lindell’s ‘documentary’ Absolute Proof, which was deleted by social media platforms as it contains so much misinformation about the 2020 US election results. Dominion spokesman Michael Steel told CNN in February that “Mike Lindell is begging to be sued, and at some point we may well oblige him.”

Dominion has previously sued Fox News, which broadcast equally absurd claims of election fraud. Another voting technology company, Smartmatic, has also sued Fox. Donald Trump continues to repeat lies about election fraud fed to him by Fox and OAN. The ultimate impact of such dangerous misinformation came on 6th January when Trump incited a riot at the US Capitol.

12 August 2021

ไอเหี้ย... ฆาตกร

LAND OF COMPROMISE
This afternoon, Thai rapper Elevenfinger released his new single, ไอเหี้ย... ฆาตกร. The title, which translates as ‘fucking... murderer’, is typically confrontational: his last single was called เผด็จกวยหัวคาน (‘get rid of the dickhead’). The music videos for both singles were filmed at recent anti-government protests, and the ไอเหี้ย... video shows riot police deploying rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannon against protesters.

The song’s target is not named directly, though it was released at precisely 1:12pm and it includes the ironic caption “LAND OF COMPROMISE”. The title of Anuwat Apimukmongkon’s exhibition A Blue Man in the Land of Compromise and the lyrics of a single by Paeng Surachet—“ประนีประนอมได้ไหม ไม่ compromise นะถ้าทำตัวเเบบนี้” (‘Can we compromise? No, I won’t compromise if you behave this way’)—refer to the same quote.

The final line of ไอเหี้ย... is the most provocative, with the artist insisting that he will not be a slave to someone who starves people of food and resources. Elevenfinger has also released a new album on CD, No God, No King, Only Humans (ไม่มีพระเจ้า ไม่มีกษัตริย์ มีแค่เพียง มนุษย์ เท่านั้น).

11 August 2021

Thalu Fah

Yet again, riot police have fired rubber bullets at anti-government protesters in Bangkok, for the fourth time in less than a fortnight. This afternoon, protesters gathered at Victory Monument, where they threw paint at police. Rubber bullets and tear gas were used to disperse the crowd, some of whom attempted to march to Prayut Chan-o-cha’s residence on Viphavadi Rangsit Road. The road was blocked by shipping containers, and the protesters set fire to a police truck at the Sam Liam Din Daeng intersection nearby.

The rally was organised by Thalu Fah, a protest group led by Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, who was the first person to be convicted of lèse-majesté during the reign of King Rama X. Rap Against Dictatorship’s single Ta Lu Fah (ทะลุฟ้า) was named after the group (using an alternate spelling). Jatupat was arrested along with eight other protest leaders a few days ago, and they were all denied bail.

The use of rubber bullets by riot police is now becoming a daily occurrence. Today’s events were a repeat of yesterday’s, and rubber bullets were also deployed at six previous rallies this year, on 28th February, 20th March, 2nd May, 18th July, 1st August, and 7th August.

10 August 2021

#ม็อบ10สิงหา

Free Youth
Riot police have fired rubber bullets at anti-government protesters in Bangkok for the third time this month. This afternoon, several hundred protesters gathered at the Sam Liam Din Daeng intersection, and set light to a police booth. Riot police responded with rubber bullets, water cannon, and tear gas. Some of the protesters retreated to Victory Monument, where another police booth was burnt down. They also threw rocks and firecrackers at police.

Elsewhere in Bangkok, a protester splashed pig’s blood onto a sign at Sino-Thai Tower, headquarters of Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction (seen in this photograph by protest group Thalu Fah). Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who has been accused of corruption and incompetence, is a former president of the company. Blood was also used by protesters a decade ago, when it was poured onto the ground outside Government House and used to paint a banner at Democracy Monument.

Clearly, the government has no interest in negotiating with the protest leaders, most of whom are currently being detained without bail. Instead, rubber bullets are now deployed by riot police as standard practice rather than as a last resort. They were used at six previous rallies this year, on 28th February, 20th March, 2nd May, 18th July, 1st August, and 7th August.

Such is the frequency of the anti-government rallies that protesters and the media use daily hashtags to describe them. Today’s hashtag is #ม็อบ10สิงหา (‘mob 10th Aug.’), a significant date as it marks the first anniversary of Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul’s speech outlining the protesters’ ten-point manifesto for reform of the monarchy.