Tuesday, 31 May 2016


There will be a free screening of Tongpan on 3rd June at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, near Bangkok. Tongpan (1977) is a dramatisation of a seminar that took place in 1975, which was organised in order to debate the construction of the Pa Mong dam on the Mekong river. The film's eponymous central character is a farmer who had been displaced due to a previous dam.

Sulak Sivaraksa (author of ค่อนศตวรรษ ประชาธิปไตยไทย, Rediscovering Spiritual Value, and Love Letters To Dictators) also appears, and makes a passionate speech against the proposed dam: "Development only serves a few people in Bangkok. Do we see the disadvantages of electricity? Electricity brings radios and TVs that tell people to buy things. The Japanese and the farang industries just get richer. And what about the destruction of our country? The whole province of Loei will be flooded by this Pa Mong Dam."

The Pa Mong dam project was abandoned, though environmental threats to the Mekong region continue to this day. China has built six hydroelectric Mekong dams and more are currently under construction. (Apichatpong Weerasethakul has made several recent films in the region, including Mekong Hotel, Cactus River, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, A Letter To Uncle Boonmee, Phantoms Of Nabua, Cemetery Of Splendor, and his Primitive installation.)

Tongpan was banned in Thailand during the anti-Communist purge of the 1970s, and the film's epilogue explains the repressive political conditions of the period: "In October 1976, shortly after the shooting of this film, a violent coup d'etat of a magnitude never before seen in Thailand brought to an end Thailand's three-year experiment with parliamentary democracy."

"Gods way of helping RENTOKILL"

Paul Grange was arrested in the UK on Sunday after he was photographed wearing an offensive t-shirt in Worcester. The text on the back of his t-shirt read "HILLSBOROUGH Gods way of helping RENTOKILL" [sic], and he wore it at the Brewers Arms pub. The shirt is extremely insulting and distasteful, as it compares victims of the Hillsborough tragedy to vermin.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

National Enquirer

National Enquirer
The Sun
After naming PJS and YMA, the National Enquirer has now broken another injunction by identifying actor Hugh Bonneville, who had previously been referred to only as NEJ. Bonneville was granted a High Court injunction against The Sun newspaper in 2011, to stop it from revealing that he had slept with a prostitute, Helen Wood.

Under the terms of the original injunction, neither Bonneville nor Wood could be identified, though the restrictions were partially relaxed and Wood's identity was disclosed. Bonneville had already been mentioned by the Herald On Sunday newspaper in New Zealand on 24th April, in an article about PJS (headlined "Celebs, threesomes and ridiculous privacy laws"), though the Herald didn't disclose any details of his case.

Emboldened by the publicity it generated after exposing PJS and YMA, the National Enquirer named Bonneville in its issue dated 16th May. In an article headlined "'DOWNTON ABBEY' star in HOOKER & SEX TOY SCANDAL!", the supermarket tabloid summarised the more sensationalist aspects of this "shocking revelation". The Enquirer is published in America, and the injunction applies only in England and Wales.

As the Daily Mail had done following the PJS and YMA coverage, The Sun printed the Enquirer's article with the incriminating details redacted. In its current issue, dated 23rd May, the Enquirer boasts that it "refused to back down from publishing all the lurid details of the jaw-dropping story."


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Poem Of The Pillow & Other Stories

Poem Of The Pillow & Other Stories
Poem Of The Pillow & Other Stories is an anthology of shunga, a genre of erotic ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Poem Of The Pillow is a translation of Kitagawa Utamaro's Utamakura, "the most famous erotic album in the history of Japanese art". The collection was compiled by Gian Carlo Calza (who edited a recent monograph on Katsushika Hokusai) and published by Phaidon.

The book is significant because it reprints each of the selected shunga works in full. Thus, all twelve sheets of Utamakura (1788) are included, along with others including Torii Kiyonaga's equally acclaimed Sode No Maki (1785; also a dozen sheets). There is also a useful glossary and an extensive bibliography.

The British Museum's Shunga exhibition catalogue (2013) is the most comprehensive survey of shunga. The first academic study of the subject was Sex & The Floating World (1999) by Timon Screech. Images From The Floating World (1978), the classic study of ukiyo-e prints by Richard Lane, includes several examples of shunga.

Treasures Of Heaven

Treasures Of Heaven
Holy Thorn Reliquary
Treasures Of Heaven: The Story Of Relics & Reliquaries, written and presented by Andrew Graham-Dixon, is a documentary examining the Medieval cult of relics and the reliquaries in which they were contained. Relics of saints and New Testament figures were venerated by Christians throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, and goldsmiths and silversmiths created ornate reliquaries to display them.

The programme shares its title with a British Museum exhibition and book from 2011, and several of the reliquaries from the exhibition are included. A reliquary of Saint Sebastian designed by Hans Holbein (1497; now at the Victoria & Albert Museum) is described by Wendy Beckett as "the apotheosis of all reliquaries".

Arguably the most fascinating reliquaries are those relating to the crown of thorns that Jesus wore at his crucifixion. Graham-Dixon visits the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris - "the single most beautiful Medieval building in the world" - a Gothic chapel built to house the crown of thorns. He also examines the Holy Thorn Reliquary, "possibly the single most remarkable object to have come down to us from the Middle Ages" (circa 1390; now at the British Museum).

Treasures Of Heaven was directed by Paul Tilzey and first broadcast on BBC4 on 20th June 2011. Relics and reliquaries are also discussed in Restless Bones (1985) by James Bentley and two books by Paul Koudounaris (The Empire Of Death, 2011; Memento Mori, 2015).

Monday, 23 May 2016

"There is no public interest...
in publishing kiss-and-tell stories"

National Enquirer
Daily Mail
In January, David Furnish applied to the High Court for an injunction against an article The Sun On Sunday newspaper was planning to publish about his extra-marital affair. The High Court initially rejected the injunction, on the grounds that publication would expose the inaccurate image of marital commitment that Furnish and his husband, Elton John, had promoted in their media interviews. Furnish appealed this decision, and the Court of Appeal granted an injunction on the basis that publication would invade his privacy, and that of his children.

The injunction, which is still in force, only applies in England and Wales. Furnish has been named by three American magazines (the National Enquirer, the Star, and OK!, all owned by the same publisher), and newspapers in Scotland, Canada, New Zealand Singapore, Italy, and Belgium. The Enquirer's cover story appeared in its issue published on 6th April (though dated 18th April). The Star's article was published on the same day (and also dated 18th April). OK!'s article appeared in its issue dated 2nd May. The story appeared in the Sunday Mail in Scotland on 10th April, the Toronto Star in Canada on 12th April, the Herald On Sunday in New Zealand on 24th April, Corriere Della Sera in Italy and The Straits Times in Singapore on 21st May, and the Gazet Van Antwerpen in Belgium today.

The National Enquirer, the archetypal supermarket tabloid, reported the scandal in typically lurid fashion. It claimed that Furnish's "sordid affair" with Daniel Laurence had caused "a devastating marriage crisis"; with characteristic hyperbole, it described its four-page kiss-and-tell interview as a "jaw-dropping" story containing "shocking bombshells". The Enquirer revealed further "sickening details of what happened" in its issue dated 25th April (though published on 13th April). (In America, celebrity gossip is protected by the constitution; even if a story is untrue, proof of 'actual malice' is required for a successful libel action.)

The Star's two-page article, headlined "Elton's CHEATING HUSBAND!", was slightly less sensationalist. Unlike the Enquirer, it referred to the Court of Appeal injunction: "The sordid story has come to light only after Elton filed suit to prevent a British newspaper from reporting it. Unfortunately for the knighted rocker, the injunction in the U.K. does not apply in the U.S." OK! had the same headline as the Star ("ELTON'S CHEATING HUSBAND!"), and even used the same main picture. In fact, although OK! claimed that its two-page story was "a bombshell report you'll only read here", its article was largely a reprint of the Star's, with only occasional minor changes.

In Scotland, the Sunday Mail announced on its front page: "Elton John and his husband David Furnish are the A-list couple behind a court injunction silencing the press in England, we reveal today." In an editorial, the newspaper justified the decision by arguing that it named them simply because it could: "we are publishing the identities of Elton John and David Furnish today because there is no good reason not to. Because there is no legal reason not to publish in Scotland what has been banned in England and Wales."

A fortnight later, New Zealand's Herald On Sunday also named the couple, in an article on page eleven headlined "Celebs, threesomes and ridiculous privacy laws". The Herald wrote: "The law does not apply here so the Herald on Sunday can tell you the man involved is David Furnish". The paper also noted the "Streisand effect", named after Barbra Streisand, whereby injunctions and censorship draw attention to the material in question and thus have a counter-productive effect.

Canada's Toronto Star reported the injunction in a story headlined "Tabloids in a tizzy over court ban". The article, on page two, began: "British tabloids won't let the sun go down on a sordid sex story seemingly involving Elton John's Toronto-born husband David Furnish, despite a controversial court ruling." Interestingly, while the other newspapers have named Furnish only in print, the Toronto Star has published its article both in print and online. (The three American magazines have geo-blocked their websites outside America.)

Meanwhile, English newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters are still legally prevented from publishing the names of the couple, or any information that might lead to their identities being revealed. Thus, they cannot even print the titles of the publications that named them. Furnish can only be referred to as "PJS", the random code assigned to him in the injunction; John's code is "YMA". On 8th April, the Daily Mail printed the National Enquirer's original article, with occasional paraphrasing and extensive redactions, to highlight the restrictions imposed on it.

The situation recalls the case of Ryan Giggs in 2011, when he took out an injunction to prevent the news of his affair with Imogen Thomas from being made public. As in the Furnish case, the injunction only applied to English and Welsh media, and Giggs was named by the Scottish newspaper the Sunday Herald on 22nd May 2011. The following day, MP John Hemming used parliamentary privilege to name Giggs in the House of Commons. This opened the floodgates, and the next day's newspapers all named Giggs despite the injunction.

In another case from that year, actor David Threlfall sought an injunction to prevent the News Of The World from revealing his affair with his co-star Pauline McLynn. The injunction was granted, and Threlfall and McLynn were identified only as ETK and X, respectively. However, they were named on the front page of the Sunday World newspaper in Ireland on 5th June 2011. On 4th March 2012, the same newspaper referred to the story again: "Pauline was last year named in British court documents as being accused of having an affair with Shameless star David Threlfall while in the show." No other publications have since named the actors, and the injunction remains in force.

In the case of PJS and YMA, the injunction is also unlikely to be lifted in the foreseeable future. The Sun On Sunday appealed against it last month, and it was lifted on the grounds that Furnish had already been named by the Enquirer and other publications, though reporting was still restricted pending a further appeal by Furnish to the Supreme Court. His appeal was heard three days later, on 21st April, though no decision was made. The Supreme Court finally announced its judgement almost a month later, on 19th May, when it granted Furnish's appeal and upheld the injunction.

The Supreme Court's conclusion rested on the issue of privacy, and set a new precedent: "There is no public interest, however much it may be of interest to some members of the public, in publishing kiss-and-tell stories or criticisms of private sexual conduct, simply because the persons involved are well-known, and so there is no right to invade privacy by publishing them." The case will now go to trial some time later this year.


Thursday, 19 May 2016

To A Turkish President

Die Weltwoche
The Spectator
Boris Johnson has been announced as the winner of the "President Erdogan Insulting Poetry Competition" after he composed a limerick about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Johnson was interviewed for today's issue of Die Weltwoche, a weekly Swiss magazine, and asked to improvise a verse satirising Erdoğan. His response was:

"There was a young fellow from Ankara
Who was a colossal wankera
Till he sowed his wild oats
With the help of a goat
But he didn’t even stop to thankera".

Douglas Murray, who organised the poetry competition, declared that Johnson had won, though the result is questionable for several reasons. Murray had previously requested that poems would not be considered if they included made-up words, specifically "wankera". Also, Johnson is a former editor of The Spectator, the magazine that ran the competition. And the deadline for entries was 23rd June, so today's announcement is rather premature.

Die Weltwoche printed the limerick with the words "colossal wankera", though when it was published in The Spectator (in the current issue, dated 21st May), it was changed to "terrific wankera" and titled To A Turkish President. The competition, and the winning limerick, mocked Erdoğan in solidarity with Jan Boehmermann, who is under investigation after reciting a poem insulting the President on German television last month.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

The Little Book
Of Typographic Ornament

The Little Book Of Typographic Ornament
The Little Book Of Typographic Ornament, by David Jury, is a guide to decorative borders, fleurons (ornamental symbols), and stock blocks (stereotyped pictures). According to the introduction: "This book offers a brief historic overview of typographic ornament and a generous number of examples, the earliest from about 1557 and the last from 2014."

There are over 700 examples, some of which have been tinted in different colours. Unfortunately, no dates or other details are provided. There are brief notes, though no bibliography. Jury's previous book, the excellent Graphic Design Before Graphic Designers, also includes examples of decorative printing elements.

Daily Mail

Daily Mail
The Daily Mail has been fined £40,000 by a magistrates' court in Westminster, London. The newspaper had pleaded guilty to the offence of revealing the identity of an alleged sexual-assault victim.

In 2014, the Metropolitan Police launched an investigation known as 'Operation Midland', after a man identified only as Nick alleged that he had been sexually abused by several politicians in the 1970s and 1980s. He provided no evidence for these allegations, and the police investigation ended without any prosecutions.

On 19th September last year, the Daily Mail published an article about Nick (written by Paul Bracchi and Stephen Wright), which included a pixelated photograph. Only the centre of his face was pixelated, and some personal details were included: "Nick is 47. A former nurse, he is now a manager in the NHS. Previously in a long-term relationship, he has a teenage child".

Nick complained that the article could lead to his identification; the article is still available on the newspaper's website, though Nick's photograph and details have been removed. The case is similar to that of The Sun, which was found guilty of the same offence earlier this year. The Sun and The Daily Telegraph had both published a pixelated photograph of a teenager who accused Adam Johnson of sexual assault.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Bolshoi Babylon

Bolshoi Babylon
Bolshoi Babylon, an HBO documentary that also received a theatrical release, examines the volatile atmosphere backstage at Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre company. How volatile? One of the Bolshoi's dancers paid someone to throw acid in ballet director Sergei Filin's face.

The film, directed by Nick Read, includes an interview with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who explains candidly that the company is an essential element of Russian soft power: "The Bolshoi is our secret weapon". Bolshoi Babylon opens at the SF World cinema in Bangkok tomorrow, with screenings presented by the Documentary Club.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

The Black Presidency

The Black Presidency
The Black Presidency: Barack Obama & The Politics Of Race In America is Michael Eric Dyson's assessment of attitudes towards race since 2008. Dyson claims that this issue is at the heart of Obama's presidency: "Race is the defining feature of our forty-fourth president's two terms in office."

However, while Obama's race was central to his identity as a young man (as David Maraniss argues in Barack Obama: The Story), as President he "has often been slow to command the rostrum to address race." Arguably, his presidency has instead been dominated by his response to the economic crisis and his healthcare policy. (Dyson covers the 'Black Lives Matter' movement, perhaps the most significant racial issue of Obama's presidency, in only a single chapter.)

Dyson was able to interview Obama in the Oval Office, though only after some persuasion: "I'd had a tough time getting on his schedule, since race was not a subject the Obama White House had been eager to embrace. I'd used all my influence to talk to the president, reminding his trusted adviser Valerie Jarrett that I had... known him for nearly twenty years. After I'd politely declined an offer to speak to the president for ten minutes, I eventually negotiated a twenty-minute interview that turned into half an hour."

"A person's honour is under attack..."

A German MP has recited Jan Boehmermann's poem mocking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Boehmermann read the poem on his late-night comedy show Neo Magazin Royale on 17th March, and he is currently facing a police investigation following a complaint from Erdoğan.

In the German Bundestag on Thursday, MP Detlef Seif defended Erdoğan: "I read this to you so that you know what was actually said. A person's honour is under attack here." He then proceeded to recite the entire poem, thus effectively compounding the insult.

Boehmermann's producers have deleted videos of the Neo Magazin Royale broadcast, though Seif's recital has been widely circulated online. In solidarity with Boehmermann, The Spectator launched a "President Erdoğan Insulting Poetry Competition" last month.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Contemporary Drawing

Contemporary Drawing
Contemporary Drawing From The 1960s To Now, by Katharine Stout, is "the first comprehensive account of drawing in contemporary art practice from the 1960s to the present day." Stout begins with some historical context, noting that Giorgio Vasari regarded drawing as the progenitor of sculpture, architecture, and painting. She also cites Marcel Duchamp's LHOOQ and Robert Rauschenberg's Erased de Kooning Drawing as examples of "the way in which artists have used it to enact some of the most transgressive moments in twentieth-century art."

There are ten thematic chapters, each dealing with different forms of drawing, ranging from "the non-representational line as a subject and material means of making drawing" to "drawing that is temporal, either because it is enacted during a live performance, realised in a peripatetic manner, or takes the form of an architectural intervention". Richard Kenin's The Art Of Drawing (1974) covered drawing from the Renaissance to Impressionism, with illustrations mainly from the British Museum. Andrew Graham-Dixon's BBC2 series The Secret Of Drawing (2005) was a potted history of artistic and technical drawing.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

The Cult Of Beauty

The Cult Of Beauty
The Cult Of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 was published to accompany an exhibition of the same name at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2011, a comprehensive survey of the Victorian Aesthetic Movement. The Cult Of Beauty was "the first exhibition ever to bring together many of the greatest Aesthetic pictures as well as the finest furniture, decorative arts and fashion of this extraordinary movement".

The catalogue, edited by Stephen Calloway and Lynn Federic Orr, features essays on an extremely wide variety of Aesthetic arts: literature, photography, ceramics, wallpaper, textiles, furniture, metalwork, jewellery, sculpture, and bookbinding. It also includes introductory essays by both editors, and biographies of Aesthetic designers and writers. (Strangely, the dust jacket and spine have the original subtitle, but the title page has the American subtitle, The Victorian Avant-Garde.)

Monday, 9 May 2016

Pictograms, Icons, & Signs

Pictograms, Icons, & Signs
Pictograms, Icons, & Signs: A Guide To Information Graphics, by Rayan Abdullah and Roger Hubner, is the first book to examine the development and design of pictograms. More than simply a catalogue of examples, the book summarises the pictogram's connection to semiotics and visual communication.

The authors trace the origin of modern pictograms to 1909, when four visual traffic signs were adopted in Paris. They show the evolution of pictograms with examples of successive Olympic symbols, and signs for various transport and communication systems. They also discuss digital desktop icons, such as those created by Susan Kare ("regarded as the mother of the icon").

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Present Continuous

Present Continuous
Present Continuous
Present Continuous, a retrospective exhibition of videos by Omer Fast, opened on 18th March at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, UK. It will close on 26th June. The exhibition includes several videos, all playing in different rooms connected by dark corridors. The exhibition catalogue, edited by Laurence Sillars, includes transcripts of each video.

Everything That Rises Must Converge (2013) is a four-screen video following a day in the lives of four porn stars. (The content is explicit, so the exhibition is restricted to adults only.) The effect is similar to Timecode (2000) by Mike Figgis, and the title is taken from a collection of short stories by Flannery O'Conner.

Friday, 6 May 2016

The New Day

The New Day
The New Day
The New Day's slogan was "Life is short, let's live it well" and with only fifty issues its life turned out to be very short indeed. As editor Alison Philips writes on page three, "today we are producing the final edition. We tried everything but sadly we just haven't reached the sales figures we needed to make the paper work financially."

The New Day had an attractive design, with full-colour printing and a clean layout, though it was unable to compete with other national tabloids, especially the i. With an emphasis on magazine-style features, its news coverage was too limited, and its content seemed bland in comparison with its rivals. The front pages of all fifty issues are reprinted on pages 22-23 of today's final edition.

Sunday, 1 May 2016


Swallow, an exhibition by Thai artist Pornprasert Yamazaki, opened yesterday in Bangkok. The exhibition includes fifteen works painted in blood and petrol, including several depictions of insects and other natural subjects. (The paintings have single-word titles: Spider, Butterly, Dragonfly, and Fly date from 2015; the others are from this year.)

Swallow is showing at La Lanta until 26th May. One of Pornprasert's previous solo exhibitions, Suicide Mind, also featured works painted in blood, and the group exhibition Currency Crisis included another of his blood paintings. (For Swallow, the artist has used an alternative English spelling of his name: Pornpraseart Yamazaki.)

Kosit Juntaratip (Thailand Eye) has previoualy used blood in his performance art, and Kristian von Hornsleth collected Thai blood samples for his Deep Storage Art Project. Manit Sriwanichpoom soaked autopsy photographs in blood for his Died On 6th October 1976 series. UDD protesters painted a banner in blood at Democracy Monument in 2010.