Sunday, 30 October 2016


Fashion: A History From The 18th To The 20th Century was first published (by Taschen) in 2002. It has since been reprinted, both as a two-volume set (Volume I: 18th & 19th Century; Volume II: 20th Century) and a single-volume edition. The capsule biographies of designers have been updated, though there have been no other changes since the first edition.

The book features 500 photographs of garments from the Kyoto Costume Institute, and was edited by the Institute's director, Akiko Fukai. The featured clothes are all from a single collection, though they're supplemented by illustrations of paintings and vintage magazines. There is only minimal coverage of menswear. (The three-volume Encyclopedia Of Clothing & Fashion, edited by Valerie Steel, is a more comprehensive guide to all aspects of fashion.)

Nevertheless, the book is significant for its historical scope and its photography. Whereas most fashion histories (such as Fashion 150 and the excellent The History Of Modern Fashion) begin with Charles Worth in the 1850s, Fashion starts in the Rococo period. The book is also exceptional for its emphasis on photographs of actual clothes, displayed on mannequins, as opposed to the catwalk photos or drawings found in many histories of fashion and costume.

Friday, 28 October 2016

The Exorcist

The Exorcist
Last Halloween, Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse screened Stanley Kubrick's The Shining; this year, their Halloween highlight is The Exorcist, William Friedkin's classic horror film, on 30th October. Also, Bangkok Open Air Cinema Club will be showing John Carpenter's Halloween on 19th November (postponed from 15th October, following the death of King Bhumibol).

Sunday, 23 October 2016


Gemstone/Art: Renaissance To The Present Day examines the use of precious stones in decorative art, liturgical objects, and sculpture. It includes a chapter on the history of gemmoglyptics (stone-carving), and a portfolio of work by lapidary artists ("the first comprehensive view of the many contemporary artists who have devoted themselves to gem-stones as material").

The book is written in both German and English (its German title being Edelstein/Kunst), and many of its illustrations (including some magnificent medieval and Renaissance objects) depict works by German artists or artefacts from German museum collections. Editor Wilhelm Lindemann is also the author of the extensive historical section, much of which is not covered in books on jewellery design. There are detailed notes, though no bibliography or index.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Yingluck: "I will use every
channel available to fight this..."

Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has been fined $1 billion after an investigation into her government's rice subsidy scheme, and her assets are liable for seizure by the Legal Execution Department. Yingluck announced that she will appeal against the verdict, saying: "it is not right and it is not just. I will use every channel available to fight this."

In 2011, Yingluck's Pheu Thai government agreed to pay farmers up to 50% above the market rate for their rice, intending to withhold it from the world market and thus drive up the price. The result, however, was that other countries in the region increased their rice exports, leaving the government with vast stockpiles that it could not sell.

Yingluck is the sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, whose assets were frozen in 2007 and finally confiscated in 2010. She was elected in 2011, though the PDRC organised protests against her government. She called an election in 2014, though it was boycotted by the opposition and sabotaged by the PDRC. She was removed from office shortly before a military coup, and was retroactively impeached last year.

1001 Movies
You Must See Before You Die

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Steven Jay Schneider's 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die has been updated for 2016. The 2013 edition was substantially revised, though this year's edition (as in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015) substitutes only a handful of very recent films.

There are ten new entries this year: Spotlight, Mad Max: Fury Road, Straight Outta Compton, The Big Short, Bridge Of Spies, Tangerine, The Revenant, Son Of Saul, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and The Look Of Silence. Therefore, ten films have also been deleted: Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, Amour, Django Unchained, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Drive, The Act Of Killing, Senna, Citizenfour, Guardians Of The Galaxy, and The Theory Of Everything.


Thursday, 20 October 2016

501 Must-See Movies

501 Must-See Movies
The fifth edition of 501 Must-See Movies contains eleven new entries, and therefore eleven deletions. The new films are Bridesmaids, Frozen, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Help, Zero Dark Thirty, Dallas Buyers Club, Twelve Years A Slave, Boyhood, The Revenant, Gravity, and American Sniper. The deleted titles are The Vikings; The Charge Of The Light Brigade; The Mission; A Cock & Bull Story; Knocked Up; Hello, Dolly!; Once; High School Musical III; Green Card; Naked Lunch; and AI: Artificial Intelligence.

There is no editor credited in this edition, though of the six authors, only one (Rob Hill) contributes to every chapter. The third and fourth editions also contained only minor changes, though the second edition was revised more extensively. The first edition was published in 2004.


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

"Programming will return shortly..."

King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away on Thursday after a seventy-year reign, marking the end of an era in the modern history of Thailand, and extensive tributes to him have appeared in both Thai and international media. There have also been profiles of his heir, the Crown Prince, including a 14th October article in The Guardian.

Thailand's lèse-majesté law has been enforced particularly strictly by the current military government, leading to increasing self-censorship by journalists within the country. TrueVisions, the cable TV monopoly, is interrupting BBC World News whenever the channel broadcasts sensitive content, replacing the signal with a euphemistic caption: "Programming will return shortly."

The Financial Times has a correspondent based in Bangkok, though his recent reports have not been bylined. The Economist doesn't distribute editions with sensitive content in Thailand. The New York Times (which ceased printing in Bangkok last year) has published sensitive pieces only by writers outside Thailand.

The Self-Portrait

The Self-Portrait
The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History, by James Hall, analyses the evolution of the self-portrait over the past millennium. As Hall writes in his introduction, "This is the first history of self-portraiture to celebrate - unapologetically - the Middle Ages." He cites a fascinating example of a miniature self-portrait, signed Rufillus, appearing within the initial letter 'R' of a medieval illuminated manuscript. (Christopher de Hamel describes a similar example, by Hugo Pictor, in Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts.)

It's an impressively wide-ranging survey, from canonical masterpieces like Las Meninas ("the most ambitious statement about the status of easel painting that had been made") to divisive artists such as the Viennese Actionists ("deliberately shocking and shamanistic, involving a Dionysian disembowelling of animals, immersion in blood and entrails, and self-mutilation"). The book also includes "the first ever caricatural self-portrait," a sketch by Michelangelo in which the artist depicts himself painting the Sistine Chapel fresco.

There have been surprisingly few histories of self-portraiture, and most were written in the past decade. The most comprehensive is the lavishly illustrated Artists' Self-Portraits, by Omar Calabrese, which is thematically organised in contrast to Hall's chronological structure.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Akira Yoshizawa
Japan's Greatest Origami Master

Akira Yoshizawa: Japan's Greatest Origami Master
Akira Yoshizawa: Japan's Greatest Origami Master
Origami has been documented in Japan for over 200 years, according to John Smith's booklet Notes On The History Of Origami. However, it was Akira Yoshizawa who was almost single-handedly responsible for the modern revival of origami in Japan and elsewhere. (Robert Harbin, whose book Paper Magic popularised origami in the UK, quotes a description of Yoshizawa as "far and away the greatest folder in the world".)

Akira Yoshizawa: Japan's Greatest Origami Master "is the first comprehensive survey in English of the work of Akira Yoshizawa, who is widely acknowledged as the father of modern origami." Published this month, it describes Yoshizawa as "a bridge between the past and the present, between the ancient Japanese craft and the development of origami into a modern art form, both in terms of inventing new techniques and in preserving the traditional forms of origami. Above all, he elevated origami to the status of an art form around the world."

The book (first published in French as Akira Yoshizawa: Origami d'Exception) features more than 1,000 of Yoshizawa's drawings (reproduced from his books Utsukushii Origami and Yasashii Origami), and photographs of his origami models (in situ at the 2014 exhibition Akira Yoshizawa: The World Of Creative Origami). It includes a link to an online Yoshizawa documentary (Origami Sono Uchu), though the video has already been deleted.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The New York Times

The New York Times
International New York Times
Yesterday's edition of the International New York Times was the final issue published under that title: today, it was relaunched as the International Edition of The New York Times. The rebranding (which was not announced in advance) comes almost exactly three years after the International New York Times replaced the International Herald Tribune.

The newspaper has also been redesigned, with a focus on "deep reporting and analysis", according to a letter by publisher Arthur Sulzberger. There are no news-in-brief items, the sport section has been shortened, the opinion and editorial section has been expanded (including a new front-page opinion column), and four pages have been added. In summary, the paper feels more like its weekend edition.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Book Of Books

The Book Of Books
Champ Fleury
The Book Of Books: 500 Years Of Graphic Innovation, edited by Mathieu Lommen, reproduces pages from 125 books published over the past 500 years, spanning the entire history of printing. Published by Thames & Hudson, it was translated from the Dutch edition, Het Boek Van Het Gedrukte Boek.

The featured books range from incunabula such as the Nuremberg Chronicle (Hartmann Schedel, 1493) to Modernist publications including Jan Tschichold's Foto-Auge (1929) and contemporary design monographs like Made You Look (Stefan Sagmeister, 2001). Renaissance masterpieces such as De Humani Corporis Fabrica (Andreas Vesalius, 1543) are included, as are classic works of the Enlightenment such as Denis Diderot's Encyclopedie (1751). A 1521 edition of De Architectura (Marcus Vitruvius) is followed by Geoffrey Tory's Champ Fleury (1529), which includes illustrations inspired by Leonardo's Vitruvian Man.

The book was published to accompany an exhibition at the University of Amsterdam, The Printed Book: A Visual History, and all of the featured books are from the University library's collection. (The first illustration, a page from the Gutenberg Bible, is the sole exception.) The 17th century was a golden age of Dutch printing, and the book includes examples such as a 1664 edition of Joan Blau's Atlas Maior, "the biggest and most expensive atlas internationally available at that time."

The Book Of Books includes a comprehensive bibliography. A History Of Graphic Design (Philip B Meggs), The Book: A Global History (Michael F Suarez and HR Woudhuysen), and 500 Years Of Printing (SH Steinberg) also cover the history of printed books; Printing Types (Daniel Updike; in two volumes) is the standard history of typography.

Friday, 7 October 2016


Betrayal: The Crisis In The Catholic Church was first published in 2002, after The Boston Globe's Spotlight investigations team exposed the abuse of children by Catholic priests. That case has been compared to The Washington Post's Watergate investigation, and it inspired the film Spotlight.

The updated edition, released alongside the film, has a preface by Spotlight's director and screenwriter: "We hope that our movie, along with the rerelease of this incredible documentation of the Globe Spotlight Team's reporting, might help further the argument for traditional investigative journalism". It also has a new afterword analysing the repercussions of the investigation: "The crisis seeped deep into American popular culture, transforming how Catholicism was viewed and treated."

Like All The President's Men (and No Expenses Spared), Betrayal was written by the investigative journalists themselves (namely Matt Carroll, Kevin Cullen, Thomas Farragher, Stephen Kurkjian, Michael Paulson, Sacha Pfeiffer, Michael Rezendes, and Walter V Robinson). It includes copies of the documents obtained during the investigation, and detailed notes.

"We stand by our journalism..."

Yesterday, Cliff Richard formally launched a legal action against South Yorkshire Police and the BBC. He filed a lawsuit at the High Court in London after the BBC broadcast coverage of a police search of his property. South Yorkshire Police gave the BBC advance notice that the search would take place on 14th August 2014, giving the broadcaster the opportunity to position a helicopter above the building in time to film the police arriving and departing.

The BBC released a statement saying: "we are very sorry that Sir Cliff has suffered distress but we have a duty to report on matters of public interest and we stand by our journalism." Richard was named by the BBC and other media organisations after an investigation into allegations of sexual assault was initiated. He was one of several public figures (including Alistair McAlpine) investigated as part of 'Operation Yewtree'.

Ultimately, no charges were brought against him, though he argues that his reputation was damaged by the BBC's coverage of the investigation. (On the other hand, media coverage after the initial police search was largely sympathetic, with the tabloids reporting the investigation as an ordeal for Richard and presupposing that he was innocent.)

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Citizen Reporters

Thailand's public-service television station Thai PBS is facing a 50 million baht lawsuit from mining company Tungkum. The company is suing for defamation following a report broadcast on 15th September last year. (Defamation, like lèse-majesté, is a criminal offence in Thailand.)

The report, part of a series titled Citizen Reporters, alleged that a recently-opened gold mine in Loei, northern Thailand, has caused water pollution and other environmental damage. The segment was presented by a local schoolgirl, Wanphen Khunna, who is being sued along with several Thai PBS journalists.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

The Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph
After PJS, NEJ, and RA, another privacy injunction was broken last month, and has been partially lifted as a result. The Daily Telegraph newspaper in Sydney, Australia, revealed that a former BBC children's television presenter and her partner were involved in a custody dispute over their young son: "Ben Alcott will appear in London's High Court on Wednesday claiming that ex partner and former CBeebies performer Katy Ashworth snatched their son, Charlie, from his Redfern home this year."

The article was published on 19th September, accompanied by a large photograph of the family in question. Based on this coverage, two UK newspapers (The Sun and The Times) applied for the removal of the injunction preventing publication of the names of those involved. The judge lifted the injunction in relation to the boy's parents, though their son's identity remains protected, and he can be identified only as D by UK media organisations.

In his judgement, the judge noted The Daily Telegraph's unusually privileged access to the details of the case: "articles appeared in this jurisdiction in The Times, Daily Mail and The Sun. In these the parties' identities were not revealed. However an article also appeared in the Daily Telegraph of Sydney, together with an accompanying photograph, in which the parties and D were named. It is difficult to understand how that newspaper obtained the details for that story".

As in the case of the National Enquirer, The Daily Telegraph's publication of D's identity provided a convenient defence for the UK newspapers, as they could argue that the injunction had already been broken elsewhere and that it would, therefore, be ineffective to maintain it in the UK. This explanation is plausible as The Daily Telegraph, The Times, and The Sun all have the same proprietor, Rupert Murdoch.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts

Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts
Book of Kells
Leiden Aratea
Harmonia Macrocosmica
Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts is a remarkable book. According to the dust jacket, "Christopher de Hamel has handled and catalogued more illuminated manuscripts and over a wider range than any person alive, and possibly more than any individual has ever done." He is, therefore, the ideal guide to the stories behind a dozen of the world's greatest manuscripts.

As de Hamel explains in his introduction, his aim is "to invite the reader to accompany the author on a private journey to see, handle and interview some of the finest illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages." The word 'interview' has an element of anthropomorphism, which de Hamel readily acknowledges: "The life of every manuscript, like that of every person, is different, and all have stories to divulge."

Twelve manuscripts are featured, each with its own chapter. The selection is diverse and representative: "I have singled out volumes which seemed to me characteristic of each century, from the sixth to the sixteenth." In each case, de Hamel provides a detailed analysis of the manuscript's text and illuminations, with photographs of sample pages. He also gives thorough commentaries on provenance, collation, and restoration.

In addition to the manuscripts themselves, de Hamel also describes the various libraries in which they're kept. The Long Room of Trinity College, Dublin, for example, is a "magnificent polished wooden cathedral of books". He sets the scene with incidental details about each institution, from the officious St Petersberg National Library ("No, she informed me firmly: no printed books were allowed in the reading room. I begged and pleaded to no avail") to the laissez-faire Leiden University ("There was no nonsense about wearing gloves. I can see why everyone likes the Dutch").

The most remarkable of the twelve Remarkable Manuscripts is undoubtedly the Book of Kells. In fact, de Hamel calls it "probably the most famous and perhaps the most emotively charged medieval book of any kind." Surprisingly, he bluntly criticises the illustrations in the Book of Kells, describing a portrait of the Virgin Mary as "dreadfully ugly." Of the Book's text pages, on the other hand, he has the highest praise: "Every sentence opens with a complex calligraphic initial filled with polychromic artistry, like enamel-encrusted jewellery."

The illustrations in the Book of Kells are not technically illuminations, as they do not include gold decoration. The Copenhagen Psalter, which does contain gold illuminations, is "one of the most beautifully illustrated books in the world." This Psalter is described in terms almost as superlative as the Book of Kells: "Every page shimmers with burnished gold and splendid ornament. The script is calligraphically magnificent." (The original owner of this Psalter, Valdemar I of Denmark, is one of several new discoveries de Hamel makes as he examines the manuscripts.)

Another highlight is the Leiden Aratea, which includes a planetarium that was duplicated in the Harmonia Macrocosmica. Incredibly, de Hamel notes that modern astronomers have used the positions of the planets as depicted in the planetarium to calculate the precise date of its composition: 18th March 816.

This is a fascinating introduction to twelve otherwise inaccessible manuscripts, written by the world's leading authority: de Hamel's earlier book A History Of Illuminated Manuscripts has become the standard text on the subject. (He also wrote a chapter of The Book: A Global History.)

Meetings With Manuscripts includes a comprehensive annotated bibliography, though there are a few other manuscript histories that are worth highlighting: Illuminated Manuscripts by JA Herbert (from the Connoisseur's Library series), Codices Illustres by Ingo F Walther and Norbert Wolf (with superb illustrations), A History Of Book Illustration by David Bland (a concise global survey), and (although de Hamel has previously dismissed it) The Illuminated Book by David Diringer.

Alex Steinweiss

Alex Steinweiss
Alex Steinweiss
Piano Concerto No. 5
The Dark Side Of The Moon
Alex Steinweiss, written by Kevin Reagan and published by Taschen, is a comprehensive monograph devoted to the man who was, as the subtitle puts it, The Inventor Of The Modern Album Cover. The book (whose cover and endpapers resemble a 78rpm record sleeve) was written with Steinweiss' full collaboration, and it was published just a few months before he died.

Steinweiss was working for Columbia Records when he designed an illustrated cover for their 1940 Richard Rogers album Smash Song Hits. In The Art Of The Album Cover, Richard Evans calls Steinweiss "the inventor of the individual album cover," and Nick de Ville's more comprehensive book on the same subject, Album, notes that the 1940 Steinweiss sleeve "resulted in the launch of illustrated covers for albums".

Taschen's book is the definitive study of Steinweiss and his work, with many full-page reproductions of his record covers and other examples of graphic design. (His 1942 Beethoven's Emperor concerto cover "may well have inspired" Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon.) It also includes a lengthy essay by Steven Heller, Visualizing Music. (An earlier book on Steinweiss, For The Record by Jennifer McKnight-Trontz, also has an introduction by Heller.)