Tuesday, 20 August 2019

The Textening

Four American media companies have been fined by the Federal Communications Commission after unauthorised broadcasts of the emergency alert system tone. The tone, which is similar to an SMS notification, can only be broadcast on television or radio in the event of a genuine emergency, and the FCC argued that its use in entertainment shows could lead to “alert fatigue” and public dismissal of genuine emergency alerts, resulting in “a substantial threat to public safety.”

The ABC network received the largest fine, $395,000, as a 3rd October 2018 episode of the late-night comedy show Jimmy Kimmel Live! included a parody of the emergency alert. Its spoof trailer, The Textening, featured nine uses of the alert tone.

AMC was fined $104,000, as it featured the alert in an episode of the horror series The Walking Dead (Omega, broadcast on 17th February). Meruelo Radio received a $67,000 fine, as a spoof alert tone appeared in trailers on its California radio station KDAY on 8th September 2017. Animal Planet was fined $68,000, as an episode of its reality TV series Lone Star Law (Thousand Year Flood, shown on 21st January 2018) also featured the alert tone. In that case, the alert was a genuine emergency message about Hurricane Harvey, though the show was broadcast several months after the storm.

Monday, 12 August 2019

100 Must-See Films

100 Must-See Films
On 7th July, the Sunday People newspaper (a UK tabloid) published 100 Must-See Films, an eight-page supplement listing “the top 100 films of all time.” The list, compiled by Karen Rockett, does not include any silent or foreign-language entries.

PDF

Underdocs

Underdocs
Boundary
By the River
Soil Without Land
When the Lido cinema closed in 2018, after fifty years, you could have been forgiven for thinking that it would become yet another shopping mall. After all, that’s precisely what happened to the iconic Siam cinema on the same street. However, Lido reopened this month, not as a mall but as a revamped arts venue, Lido Connect.

The old Lido cinema was known for showing independent films, and fortunately this tradition will continue, as one of Lido’s screening rooms has been retained. (In fact, aside from a snazzy new facade, the building is structurally unchanged.) Doc Club Theater will now screen films at Lido Connect in addition to their existing venue at Warehouse 30. One of their first screenings will be Underdocs, a day-long retrospective of documentaries by Nontawat Numbenchapol, on 17th August. Nontawat will introduce each film, and will also take part in post-screenings discussions.

Underdocs begins with Nontawat’s Boundary (ฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูง), which documents the conflict between Thailand and Cambodia when the disputed Preah Vihear Temple was exploited for nationalist political gain. The issue was so sensitive that the director couldn’t even reveal his identity while filming at the temple. As he told me in an interview: “I could not tell anyone in Cambodia that I’m Thai, because it would be hard to shoot. I had to tell everybody I’m Chinese-American... My name was Thomas in Cambodia.”

Nontawat’s second documentary, By the River (สายน้ำติดเชื้อ), is the second of three films showing as part of Underdocs. The film highlights the effects of lead pollution in the water of Lower Klity Creek in Kanchanaburi; when fishermen complained about poisoned fish, the local government simply told them to “find something else to eat.” The film’s subject is no less controversial than that of Boundary, as mining companies filed defamation lawsuits in 2016 and 2017 after similar investigations into water pollution. (The first case was dismissed, and the second was settled out of court.)

The final film in the Underdocs trilogy is Nontawat’s latest work, Soil Without Land (ดินไร้แดน). Boundary explored the Thai-Cambodia border dispute through the experience of a newly conscripted soldier (identified only by his nickname, Aod), and Soil Without Land takes a similar approach, documenting Jai Sang Lod’s conscription into the Shan State army. The Shan are persecuted in Myanmar, and are denied refugee status in neighboring Thailand.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

12 Classics

12 Classics
Manhattan
Pulp Fiction
Tokyo Story
House Rama, Bangkok’s first arthouse cinema, is moving at the end of this month. When House opened twelve years ago at RCA, the area was one of Bangkok’s most popular nightlife destinations, though it has become increasingly neglected following the gentrification of numerous other districts in the city. In that time, there has also been a significant expansion of indie cinemas in Bangkok, including Cinema Oasis, Bangkok Screening Room, and the Friese-Greene Club.

House will open at its new location, Samyan Mitrtown, in September. To celebrate its relocation, it will be screening a classic film each month for the next year. The 12 Classics season includes Woody Allen’s Manhattan, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, and Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story (東京物語).

Cut and Paste

Cut and Paste
The Cut and Paste: 400 Years of Collage exhibition is currently showing at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. The scholarly exhibition catalogue describes the show as “the first historical survey exhibition of collage ever held” and the catalogue itself as “the first publication to look at the broad history of collage.” (For good measure, the back cover calls the catalogue “the first historical survey book ever published on the subject.”) In fact, neither the exhibition nor the catalogue represent the first surveys of collage in art history, though they are both more wide-ranging than previous histories of the technique.

The standard accounts of collage trace its origins to 1912, and the newspaper cuttings appliquéd to Cubist paintings by Picasso and Braque. Cut and Paste, however, antedates the technique by 400 years, and Patrick Elliott's fascinating catalogue essay demonstrates the extent and variety of pre-Cubist collage. Nineteenth and early twentieth century collages are also discussed in the first chapter of Herta Wescher’s Collage which, with its tipped-in colour plates, remains the definitive work on the subject. A more recent history, Brandon Taylor’s Collage, covers the twentieth century and - like the Cut and Paste catalogue - includes an extensive bibliography.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Temporal Topography

Temporal Topography
Planking
Hocus Pocus
MAIIAM, Thailand’s most prestigious contemporary art venue, has expanded the space dedicated to its permanent collection. In addition to Feeling the 1990s, its more recent acquisitions are now also on show. These works, all dating from the last decade, are being exhibited under the collective title Temporal Topography: MAIIAM’s New Acquisitions; from 2010 to Present (แดนชั่วขณะ: ศิลปะสะสมใหม่เอี่ยมจาก พ.ศ. ๒๕๕๓ จนถึงปัจจุบัน). The exhibition opened on 30th March in Chiang Mai, and will run for exactly one year.

Highlights include Chulayarnnon Siriphol’s video Planking, in which a man lies down incongruously in public spaces while everyone around him stands for the national anthem. Chulayarnnon’s short, silent film is a characteristically satirical commentary on nationalist ideology and social conformity. It also addresses specific instances of state violence, as one of the filming locations, Thammasat University’s football pitch, is associated with the 6th October 1976 massacre. Students were forced to lie down on the pitch on 6th October, and Planking recreates this with an identical pose on the same spot.

Ruangsak Anuwatwimon’s Hocus Pocus (เผาเล่น ที่จริง) also commemorates an act of political violence. The installation includes a cracked pane of glass from CentralWorld, a shopping mall situated near the main redshirt protest in 2010. There are bullet holes in the glass, physical reminders of the military massacre that took place. (Similarly, Ruangsak’s sculpture No Country Like Home also utilises a bullet-ridden artefact, namely a tablet from Krue Se Mosque, to memorialise another military massacre.)

Patani Semasa

Patani Semasa
Remember at Tak-Bai
No Country Like Home
78
Photophobia
The Patani Semasa exhibition, first held at MAIIAM in Chiang Mai in 2017, was shown in Malaysia last year. It was considered too sensitive to publish a catalogue during the Thai exhibition, as several works address state violence in Thailand’s southernmost provinces, and the catalogue was therefore published in Malaysia. It includes an essay by lead curator Gridthiya Gaweewong and full-page reproductions of each artwork, with extended captions. The fold-out cover features a timeline of the region’s political and cultural history.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Photophobia, Jakkhai Siributr’s 78, and Jehabdulloh Jehsorhoh’s Remember at Tak-Bai all address the 2004 Tak Bai massacre, a tragedy also commemorated by Zakariya Amataya’s Report from a Partitioned Village (รายงานจากหมู่บ้านที่ถูกปิดล้อม) at Khonkaen Manifesto (ขอนแก่น แมนิเฟสโต้). Ruangsak Anuwatwimon’s No Country Like Home is a reminder of another 2004 massacre, at Krue Se Mosque; like his Hocus Pocus (เผาเล่น ที่จริง) installation, which dealt with the 2010 political violence in Bangkok, it incorporates an artefact bearing the physical scars of the attack.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Uncensored

Uncensored
Peace
Past Box
The Dictator of Thailand
This afternoon, street artist Headache Stencil organised an exhibition and concert at the Jam Factory in Bangkok. (It was originally due to take place at Warehouse 30.) The event, Uncensored, was a demonstration of freedom of expression, and an artistic response to the military government. Prime Minister and coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha was the main target, shown riddled with bullet holes (Peace) and condemned as The Dictator of Thailand.

Some works from Headache Stencil’s Thailand Casino exhibition were included, notably “Y” Card, along with a new installation (Past Box) filled with more stencils of Prayut. The anonymous artist himself made a rare public appearance, and even left his face uncovered whenever he wasn’t in front of a camera.

Wee Viraporn’s sculpture Watch!, from the Internet Universality Beyond Words exhibition, was also on show, though the highlight was a concert by bands including Rap Against Dictatorship and Liberate the People. The concert, which ran for an hour longer than scheduled, ended with a fantastic live performance of Which Is My Country (ประเทศกูมี).

audio

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

History of Information Graphics

History of Information Graphics
Sandra Rendgen’s Information Graphics began with a fascinating 100-page section on the history of infographics, and her follow-up book Understanding the World reproduced several historical infographics. Her latest book - like the previous volumes, published by Taschen in folio format and edited by Julius Wiedemann - is a survey of 1,000 years of information graphics.

History of Information Graphics includes more than 400 infographics, “from the Middle Age manuscript culture in Europe through the Renaissance and modern era to the European and North American mass media of the 20th century.” The reproductions (including six fold-outs) are treated not as mere illustrations, but as functional data sources, printed with such clarity that their maps and charts remain legible.

The book’s many highlights include a plate from Andreas Cellarius’ Harmonia Macrocosmica, volvelles from Peter Apian’s Astronomicum Caesareum (also reproduced in Cosmigraphics), and Joseph Minard’s flow map of Napoleon’s Russian campaign. (Rendgen is an expert on Minard, whose map was described by Edward R. Tufte in The Visual Display Of Quantitative Information as “the best statistical graphic ever drawn”.)

Unfortunately, the elegantly simple yet revolutionary diagram of a heliocentric solar system by Nicolaus Copernicus (reproduced in 100 Diagrams That Changed the World) is not included. John Snow’s influential map of London cholera infections is an even more surprising omission, though it was featured in Rendgen’s first book, Information Graphics.

History of Information Graphics is the first comprehensive history of the entire field of infographics, though there have been previous books on specific infographic formats, such as the timeline (Cartographies of Time), the cutaway (Look Inside), the tree diagram (The Book of Trees), and the educational chart (The Art of Instruction). Also, Visual Journalism and Harold Evans’ Pictures on a Page discuss the development of news graphics.

Friday, 28 June 2019

The Nation

The Nation
Today marks the final print edition of The Nation, with a commemorative “FAREWELL EDITION” printed on heavy white paper rather than regular newsprint. The newspaper was launched in 1971 as a rival to the Bangkok Post, Thailand’s other English-language daily, though it will now exist only online. The Nation had already folded its Sunday edition almost exactly a year ago, on 1st July 2018.

Although it had defied the military government after ‘Black May’ in 1992, The Nation became an apologist for the 2006 and 2014 junta administrations. Ironically, in the months before its closure, it regained some of its credibility with a series of liberal editorials. On 29th May, for example, it published a surprisingly bold obituary of Prem Tinsulanonda: “Prem’s legacy will be to inspire military top brass to maintain their strong influence in politics, to the diminishment of democracy in Thailand.”

The transition from print to digital-first has led to declining revenue at many news organisations, as readers and classified advertisers migrate to free online alternatives. Online advertising, dominated by a Google and Facebook duopoly, generates a fraction of the income from print ads, and print circulations are falling. In the UK, The Independent and its Sunday sister paper ended their print editions in 2016.

Dimensionism

Dimensionism
Manifeste Dimensioniste
Budapest
Charles Sirató’s Manifeste Dimensioniste (‘Dimensionist manifesto’), first published in France in 1936, applied Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity to the visual arts: “We must accept - contrary to the classical conception - that Space and Time are no longer separate categories, but rather that they are related dimensions... and thus all the old limits and boundaries of the arts disappear.”

Dimensionism: Modern Art in the Age of Einstein, edited by Vanja V. Malloy, is the catalogue to an exhibition of Dimensionist art held last year, though it also serves as “the first publication devoted to critical writing on Dimensioism.” It includes an English translation of the Dimensionist manifesto, which first appeared in the anthology Manifesto: A Century of Isms.

The book also features the first English translation of Sirató’s essay The History of the Dimensionist Manifesto. For good measure, that essay also incorporates a manifesto for another movement, a form of concrete poetry he called Glogoism: “I started out from the verb glogao = speak and called my new “ism” Glogoism. It sounded eccentric enough. Nobody really knew what it meant.”

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

The 400 Blows

The 400 Blows
Bangkok’s Prince Theatre hotel will be screening François Truffaut's classic The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups) on 29th June. The hotel is a converted cinema, and its rooms are decorated with vintage film memorabilia.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

World Class Cinema

World Class Cinema
8½
Pather Panchali
A Clockwork Orange
Seven Samurai
The remaining schedule for the Thai Film Archive’s World Class Cinema (ทึ่ง! หนังโลก) season has now been confirmed. Federico Fellini’s will be shown on 21st July, followed by Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali (পথের পাঁচালী) on 18th August, and Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange on 15th September. (A Clockwork Orange replaces the originally programmed Kubrick film, The Shining.) There will also be a free screening of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (七人の侍), on 28th December. As was the case earlier this year, last year, and in 2017, screenings will take place at the Scala cinema in Bangkok.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

“A shell company that’s
a money-laundering front...”

Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith has issued a formal apology to fellow MEP Richard Tice, chairman of the Brexit Party. Tice threatened legal action after Smith accused the Brexit Party of financial crimes, in a live interview with Sky News on 27th May. Smith has also agreed to contribute towards Tice’s legal costs.

In the interview, Smith said: “the only question about the Brexit Party now is which laws they’ve broken and where their campaign finances have come from, and we’ll find that out after the campaign, but they’re a shell company that’s a money-laundering front”. In a statement issued by his solicitors yesterday, Smith withdrew the claim: “I do not have any evidence to support such an allegation. I spoke in the heat of the moment and am happy to set the record straight.”

The Brexit Party, founded by former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, has been criticised by the UK Electoral Commission for its lack of financial transparency. In a report published last week, the EC concluded that the Party’s system of anonymous online fundraising “leaves it open to a high and ongoing risk of receiving and accepting impermissible donations”.

Monday, 17 June 2019

The Four

The Four
The New York Times
Financial Times
The Economist
Financial Times
Esquire
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. A cartoon by Matt Kenyon in the Financial Times (23rd April 2018) shows the so-called FAANG group (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) as a mechanical octopus, and in today’s FT, Kenyon depicts the group (minus Netflix) as a steam train.

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.

Friday, 14 June 2019

“Why bother with a milkshake when
you could get some battery acid?”

Heresy
UK police are investigating comedian Jo Brand following a comment she made on the BBC Radio 4 programme Heresy. After reports of milkshake being thrown at Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, Brand joked: “Why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?” After sustained laughter from the studio audience, she immediately qualified herself: “I’m not gonna do it. It’s purely a fantasy.”

The programme was broadcast on 11th June, though it was deleted from the iPlayer streaming service last night. Brand’s comment was played on Radio 4’s 6pm news bulletin yesterday, and on this morning’s midnight news. It was also played yesterday on Sky News. Scotland Yard announced that they had “received an allegation of incitement to violence” on 13th June.

video

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

1,000 books from 1872 to now

A list of over 1,000 books on cinema, art, and politics, organised by subject.

PDF

Friday, 7 June 2019

“Everything stays the same...”

Gen Prayut wins PM vote
Coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha was confirmed as Thai Prime Minister again last night, after he received a total of 500 votes from MPs and senators. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the progressive Future Forward party, gained 244 votes. Prayut’s second term was never in any real doubt, as he could count on the votes of the 250 senators he had appointed. (The democratic 1997 constitution introduced a fully elected Senate, though it was only 50% elected following the military’s 2007 constitution. After Prayut’s 2014 coup, the latest charter allowed the junta to appoint every senator.)

Prayut was nominated as Prime Minister by the pro-military Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), though they lost the 24th March election, with 97 constituency MPs. Pheu Thai won the highest number of parliamentary seats, 136, though they lacked an overall majority. The new constitution supplemented the ‘first past the post’ system with an element of proportional representation, though incredibly the Election Commission only confirmed its seat-allocation formula after the election had taken place. Following an unprecedented delay, the official results were announced six weeks after the election.

As expected, the Commission’s calculations favoured minor parties at the expense of Pheu Thai, to prevent another landslide by Thaksin Shinawatra’s party. (The PPRP gained a further nineteen MPs, taking their total to 116.) Other attempts to bend the rules in favour of Prayut include the dissolution of the Thai Raksa Chart party and various trumped-up charges against Thanathorn. (He is currently suspended from parliament pending an investigation into his shares in V-Luck Media, though he has already provided evidence that he sold them before becoming an MP.)

Immediately after the election, Pheu Thai, Future Forward, and five smaller parties signed up for an anti-Prayut alliance of 246 MPs, just shy of a parliamentary majority. Meanwhile, the PPRP joined with ten single-seat micro-parties and others to form a pro-military group of 150 MPs. Pressure to join the PPRP coalition was intense: one Future Forward politician, for example, revealed that he had been offered 120 million baht to switch sides.

Two medium-sized parties, the Democrats and Bhumjaithai, played hard to get, declaring their support for the PPRP only one day before the prime ministerial vote. This gave the PPRP a last-minute total of 254 seats, a slim majority. Abhisit Vejjajiva, former Prime Minister and Democrat leader, resigned as an MP in protest at his party supporting Prayut. (During the election campaign, he had pledged to oppose Prayut’s candidacy, though after the election his party voted to break that commitment.)

Speaking to reporters today, Prayut said: “Everything stays the same.” After overthrowing a democratic government and being appointed Prime Minister by his hand-picked National Legislative Assembly, he has now been reappointed thanks to a rubber-stamp Senate and an acquiescent Election Commission. Prayut has ensured that, as so often in Thailand’s past, the military will dominate national politics for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

LGBT+ Film Festival 2019

LGBT+ Film Festival 2019
Mapplethorpe
My Own Private Idaho
Bangkok's second annual LGBT+ Film Festival will take place next month. Mapplethorpe, Ondi Timoner’s biopic of Robert Mapplethorpe, is one of the highlights, showing on 4th and 5th July. (The film is unrated, as it includes examples of Mapplethorpe’s sexually explicit photography, as seen in the recent documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures.)

The LGBT+ Film Festival 2019 opens at Bangkok Screening Room on 2nd July. It will end with a screening of the New Queer Cinema classic My Own Private Idaho on 7th July. The event is programmed by Thapanan Wichitratthakarn.