Sunday, 27 August 2017

The Visual History Of Type

The Visual History Of Type
The Visual History Of Type, written by Paul McNeil and published next month by Laurence King, is a chronological survey of more than 300 typefaces, from the 1450s to the present day. Like The Book Of Books, it features large reproductions of book pages and type specimens, with each illustrated in a double-page spread accompanied by a few paragraphs of analysis. The Visual History of the title distinguishes it from Daniel Updike's more scholarly Printing Types, which remains the standard history.

SH Steinberg's 500 Years Of Printing also covers the same timeframe, though it's a slim pocketbook whereas The Visual History Of Type has the dimensions of a family Bible (appropriately enough, as it begins with Johannes Gutenberg). On its back cover, the book is justifiably described as "the definitive survey of the development of letterforms since the advent of printing with movable type in the mid-1400s." It's the new Bible of typography.

"She is a former prime minister and
some officials might have helped her..."

Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra left Thailand this week, shortly before the Supreme Court was due to deliver its verdict in her trial for dereliction of duty. Yingluck had been due in court on 25th August, though her lawyer claimed that she was too ill to attend. The Court rejected that claim, as no medical certificate was presented, and the reading of the verdict was delayed until 27th September.

Announcing the delay, the Court released a written statement saying: "the defendant may attempt to abscond and therefore the Court duly issued an arrest warrant". It soon became clear that Yingluck had indeed absconded, crossing the border into Cambodia and then flying to Singapore. How or when she left Thailand has not yet been established, though it seems that she left at the last minute, only a day or two before the verdict was to be delivered.

The case stems from a rice subsidy scheme she spearheaded in 2011. Her government bought rice from farmers at up to 50% above the market rate, 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. Pheu Thai was left with vast stockpiles of rice that it could not sell, and that it was unable to pay for. Yingluck was charged with implementing the loss-making scheme and failing to prevent the corruption associated with it.

Throughout the trial, Yingluck had defended the policy in court, and had pledged to accept the verdict. On 11th July, she told the Bangkok Post: "I'll be there in court to the end." (The Bangkok Post previously interviewed her in 2014, though that interview was later retracted.) Her self-exile is all the more surprising as she seemingly avoided detection when she crossed the border. On this point, deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan initially told the media: "She is a former prime minister and some officials might have helped her if she is running away." Later, the government denied this, with one source implausibly suggesting that she had fled in a speedboat.

Her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, also left the country suspiciously easily during a Supreme Court trial. (He was given permission to visit Beijing for the Olympics, and didn't come back.) He was convicted in absentia in 2008, and his assets were seized in 2010. The coups of 2006 and 2014 were attempts by Thailand's traditional power brokers, the military, to terminate the Shinawatra family's political influence.

The eventual verdict in Yingluck's case is a foregone conclusion, given that she has already been removed from office, retroactively impeached, and fined $1 billion. Yingluck was either facing a jail sentence after a politicised trial, or a life in exile as a fugitive from justice. Her decision to leave is arguably the ideal scenario for the military, as she would have been regarded as a martyr by her red-shirt supporters if she had been convicted and jailed.

Psycho

Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho has been available in multiple formats since its original theatrical release in 1960. I've seen it on 35mm, DCP, laserdisc, DVD, blu-ray, VHS (open matte), as an in-flight movie, and on television (in an extended version). The film's script has been published, as part of The Film Classics Library. Hitchcock wrote a publicity booklet, The Care & Handling Of Psycho. There are plenty of books about it, including Alfred Hitchcock & The Making Of Psycho (which inspired the film Hitchcock), The Moment Of Psycho, and Psycho In The Shower.

But Psycho's soundtrack has never had an official release. There have been albums of orchestral performances of the score, some even conducted by composer Bernard Herrmann, though these were recorded many years after the film was made. There are also recordings claiming to be from the original master tapes, though these are poor-quality bootlegs. The closest to a legitimate release of the original soundtrack was Universal's Signature Collection laserdisc, which featured an isolated music track as a bonus feature.

Psycho, a new 7" single from Stylotone, is the first Psycho soundtrack released under licence from Universal. It contains only two tracks (the opening titles music, Prelude; and The Murder, from the shower sequence), though they are sourced directly from the original master tapes. The record was produced in collaboration with the Hitchcock and Herrmann estates, making it as official as they come. It is limited to 1,960 copies, and comes with a postcard featuring a still from the film.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

"The BBC stands by its journalism..."

A defamation suit against BBC journalist Jonathan Head has been dropped by the plaintiff. The case stemmed from a televised report into fraud on the island of Phuket, broadcast on BBC2's Victoria Derbyshire programme on 18th September 2015. The report alleged that a lawyer practising in Phuket had certified a forged signature, and he sued for the damage caused to his professional reputation.

In Thailand, defamation is a criminal offence, making investigative reporting a legal minefield. The BBC defended its reporting in a statement issued after the defamation suit was filed: "The BBC stands by its journalism and we will fight the allegations made against our correspondent by these proceedings." That position was vindicated today when the charges were dropped.

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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Echoes of French Cinema

By The Time It Gets Dark
Anocha Suwichakornpong (director of Mundane History) will introduce her latest film, By The Time It Gets Dark, at Bangkok's Alliance Francaise on 30th August, at an event called Echoes Of French Cinema. The film will be shown again on 1st, 5th, and 9th September.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Homeflick

Homeflick
By The Time It Gets Dark
Motel Mist
Homeflick, which screens independent films in Nakhon Ratchasima (in Thailand's Isan region), has organised an event this weekend: หนังควบ (a double-bill), with By The Time It Gets Dark showing on Saturday and Motel Mist on Sunday. Both screenings are at the city's Five Stars Multiplex cinema.

By The Time It Gets Dark, directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong (whose first film was the superb Mundane History), was shown last month at the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies in Chiang Mai. After the Homeflick screening, it will also be shown at Bangkok's Alliance Francaise on 30th August, followed by a Q&A with Anocha.

Motel Mist, the directorial debut of writer Prabda Yoon, was dropped by its original distributor (TrueVisions) the day before its release date, and subsequently released independently. It was also shown at the Play Me cafe and bar in Chon Buri, on 6th May.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Hollywood Movie Stills

Hollywood Movie Stills
Hollywood Movie Stills: Art & Technique In The Golden Age Of The Studios, by Joel W Finler, is "the first ever attempt to explore the role of the movie stills photographer in all its different guises." It covers the history of publicity stills from the beginning of the American studio system until the early 1970s, with chapters on star portraits, film stills, and behind-the-scenes photography. The dust jacket accurately describes it as "the most detailed and perceptive study ever devoted to this neglected aspect of film-making."

The book's black-and-white photographs include some rare images, such as Marlon Brando recreating a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire with a stand-in for Kim Hunter, alongside classic stills from Casablanca, Citizen Kane, and The Seven Year Itch. The A-Z appendix is brief and superfluous, though the bibliography has been expanded from previous editions.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Rebel Heart Tour

Rebel Heart Tour
Madonna's Rebel Heart Tour will be released on video and CD next month. The concert, promoting her Rebel Heart album, was broadcast on Showtime last December.

The DVD and blu-ray versions feature the following songs: Iconic, Bitch I'm Madonna, Burning Up, a medley of Holy Water and Vogue, Devil Pray, Messiah, Body Shop, True Blue, Deeper & Deeper, HeartBreakCity, Like A Virgin, S.E.X., Living For Love, La Isla Bonita, a medley of Dress You Up and Into The Groove, Rebel Heart, Illuminati, Music, Candy Shop, Material Girl, La Vie En Rose, Unapologetic Bitch, Holiday, and Like A Prayer. (Take A Bow is included as a bonus in Japan.)

A CD double-album features all tracks except Messiah, S.E.X., and Illuminati. A single-disc CD version features thirteen songs: Iconic, Bitch I'm Madonna, Burning Up, a medley of Holy Water and Vogue, Devil Pray, Deeper & Deeper, HeartBreakCity, Living For Love, La Isla Bonita, Rebel Heart, Candy Shop, Unapologetic Bitch, and Holiday.

The DVD and blu-ray releases will also include extracts from the Tears Of A Clown cabaret show, though unfortunately it's the rather shambolic Melbourne debut rather than the more polished Miami performance. The black-and-white extracts include performances of Borderline, Don't Tell Me (with an a cappella section), and a few lines of Holiday.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

New Horizons
Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Henri Cartier-Bresson, part of Thames & Hudson's New Horizons series of pocket-sized art books, is a short study of the master photographer, written by Clement Cheroux. The book is largely biographical, though there's also a chapter analysing Cartier-Bresson's visual style. Reproductions of ephemera such as documents and stamps add to the book's charm.

The cover shows Cartier-Bresson's most famous photograph, Derriere La Gare St Lazare: a man jumping into a puddle. The book was originally published in French, subtitled Le Tir Photographique. Cheroux (the editor of Paparazzi!) has also written several other works on Cartier-Bresson: Here & Now, Henri Cartier-Bresson, a booklet on The Decisive Moment, and Interviews & Conversations 1951-1998.

Godman To Tycoon

Godman To Tycoon
A court in Delhi has granted an injunction blocking the sale of Godman To Tycoon, a biography of Baba Ramdev. The book (subtitled The Untold Story Of Baba Ramdev), by Priyanka Pathak-Narain, was published earlier this month, though online retailers Amazon India and Flipkart have received court orders prohibiting any further sales.

Amazon India has removed the book from its website, though it remains listed as available on Flipkart's site. The book's publisher was notified of the ex parte injunction on 10th August. Ramdev, who campaigned for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 2014 general election, is a controversial figure who claims that practicing yoga can prevent AIDS and 'cure' homosexuality.

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"We got an important fact wrong..."

The New York Times
Sarah Palin is seeking $75,000 in damages from The New York Times. Her lawsuit alleges that the newspaper defamed her in an editorial by linking her to the 2011 shooting of Gabby Giffords. The editorial (headlined "America's Lethal Politics") was published online on 14th June, and appeared in the newspaper's print edition the following day. It was written by James Bennet, though as is conventional for leader columns, it was not bylined.

As originally published, the editorial stated: "In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin's political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs."

In fact, Palin's map showed Democratic districts, not politicians, in crosshairs. Also, no causal link has been found between Palin's map and the Giffords shooting. The newspaper issued a clarification via Twitter on 15th June: "We got an important fact wrong, incorrectly linking political incitement and the 2011 shooting of Giffords." It also made several revisions to the article online.

On 15th June, an extra sentence was inserted into the online version of the article, after the Palin reference: "But in that case no connection to the shooting was ever established." A subsequent reference to the Giffords shooting ("Though there's no sign of incitement as direct as in the Giffords attack") was removed. Finally, Palin's map was more accurately described as "a map that showed the targeted electoral districts of Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs."

Arguably, the reference to Palin's map should have been removed altogether, as the revised version of the editorial stresses that there was "no connection" between the crosshairs and the shooting of Giffords. However, for Palin to win her legal case, she will be required to prove that the newspaper acted with 'actual malice' by deliberately publishing false and damaging information.

Palin's lawsuit is one of several recent defamation cases against news organisations. The "pink slime" case was settled out of court last week, with Beef Products receiving $177 million from Disney, the parent company of ABC News. Melania Trump sued the Daily Mail last year, and received $3 million in damages. A documentary on the Gawker case, Nobody Speak, was released in June.

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Thursday, 10 August 2017

Peace TV

ห้องข่าวเล่าเรื่องสุดสัปดาห์
เข้าใจตรงกันนะ
Peace TV, a television station operated by the red-shirt UDD movement, has had its broadcasting licence suspended for thirty days. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, the state media regulator, announced that Peace TV had broadcast material that undermined "national security, public order and good public morals." The NBTC's ruling relates to two Peace TV programmes: เข้าใจตรงกันนะ, shown on 4th July; and ห้องข่าวเล่าเรื่องสุดสัปดาห์, broadcast on 9th July.

Peace TV's licence was suspended for thirty days last year, also due to material broadcast on the เข้าใจตรงกันนะ programme; that suspension stemmed from an episode transmitted on 21st March 2016. The station's production offices were raided in 2015, when soldiers and police officers attempted to prevent it from interviewing former Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh. (They were apparently unaware that the interview was a repeat rather than a live broadcast.)

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Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Cast

Cast
Cast: Art & Objects Made Using Humanity's Most Transformational Process, by Jen Townsend and Renee Zettle-Sterling, is the first book to explore the casting process from an artistic rather than technical perspective. At more than 400 pages, the book is a substantial survey, though it's not a comprehensive history of casting, as the authors recognise: "the breadth and depth of its history and impact are too vast to capture in a single book." There are chapters on jewellery, metal, ceramics, and glass, and more than 800 colour photographs of historic and contemporary objects.

French Classics, Thai Classics

Classic Films Screenings at AF Cinema
The Wages Of Fear
The Citizen
Muen & Rid
Bangkok's Alliance Francaise will host a season of vintage French and Thai films over the next five months. Of the five French films, the highlight is Henri-Georges Clouzot's suspense classic The Wages Of Fear, which will be shown on 4th October. (Clouzot later directed the thriller Les Diaboliques.)

The season also features five Thai films, including Chatrichalerm Yukol's The Citizen (inspired by Taxi Driver and Bicycle Thieves), screening on 15th August. (After directing social-conscience films such as The Citizen and Dr Karn, Chatrichalerm later made the epics Suriyothai and Naresuan.) The period drama Muen & Rid, by Cherd Songsri (director of The Scar) was scheduled for 14th November but will now be shown on 13th November.

Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures

Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures
Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures is the first feature-length documentary on the life and work of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who died in 1989. The film is an HBO production, and was first broadcast on 4th April 2016. (In the UK, it was shown on BBC2, as part of the Imagine... series, on 29th July 2017.) Its directors, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, previously collaborated on the documentary Inside Deep Throat.

The film's subtitle is taken from a speech on the Senate floor made by Jesse Helms in 1989: "I want Senators to come over here, if they have any doubt, and look at the pictures." Helms was campaigning against National Endowment for the Arts funding for exhibitions by Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano, amongst others, and he showed Mapplethorpe's Man In Polyester Suit (1980) and Serrano's Piss Christ (1987) in the Senate. When the posthumous Mapplethorpe retrospective The Perfect Moment opened at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati later that year, the Center's director was charged with exhibiting obscene images, though he was ultimately acquitted.

The makers of Look At The Pictures were given complete access to the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation's archive. Consequently, the fascinating documentary includes hundreds of previously unseen photographs by Mapplethorpe, and audio extracts from interviews with him. He tells one interviewer: "The work dealing with sexuality is very directly related to my own experiences. It was an area that hadn't been explored in contemporary art, and so it's an area that interested me in terms of making my statement." Many of Mapplethorpe's surviving friends, lovers, and family members participated in the film, with the notable exception of Patti Smith.

Mapplethorpe's most notorious work was a series of thirteen photographs known as the X Portfolio: Scott, NYC (1978); Self-Portrait (1978); Cedric, NYC (1977); Patrice, NYC (1977); Joe, NYC (1978); Jim, Sausalito (1977); Helmut, NYC (1978); John, NYC (1978); Lou, NYC (1978); Helmut & Brooks, NYC (1978); Jim & Tom, Sausalito (1977); Ken, NYC (1978); and Dick, NYC (1978). The Cincinnati obscenity charges related to five of these pictures (Self-Portrait; Jim & Tom, Sausalito; Helmut & Brooks, NYC; Lou, NYC; and John, NYC) and two photographs of naked children (Jessie McBride and Rosie, both from 1976).

Look At The Pictures misrepresents the Cincinnati case by mistakenly claiming that Joe, NYC was included in the list of photographs being prosecuted. More contentiously, the film omits any mention of Jessie McBride or Rosie, which were presumably deemed too sensitive to include in the documentary. These two images were included in a Channel 4 documentary, Damned In The USA, broadcast on 27th September 1991. Rosie, from Mapplethorpe's book Certain People (1985), is especially controversial, and is not included in later Mapplethorpe monographs; it was removed from a Hayward Gallery exhibition in London in 1996 on police advice.

Friday, 4 August 2017

101 Movies To Watch Before You Die

101 Movies To Watch Before You Die
101 Movies To Watch Before You Die
101 Movies To Watch Before You Die, written and illustrated by Ricardo Cavolo, is a guide to cult and classic films, arranged chronologically. Each film is briefly reviewed (in handwritten capital letters), alongside a full-page illustration. These illustrations are montages of the main characters from each film, and each character has an extra set of eyes. The book includes ninety-three individual films, seven trilogies, and eight Harry Potter episodes, making a total of 122 films.

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Plywood: A Material Story

Plywood
Plywood: A Material Story, by Christopher Wilk, is the first history of plywood as a material for furniture, industrial design, and architecture. As Wilk notes in his introduction, "plywood has a long history that is largely unknown and has been little researched." This comprehensive book, published by Thames & Hudson, more than makes up for that.

The use of plywood in industrial manufacturing was first patented in the early Victorian era, though Wilk traces the process back to the ancient Egyptian craft of gluing layers of veneer: "this is not a story in which a brand new material was born at a particular moment. Instead, it is the adaptation and reuse of a long-understood construction technique in an increasingly broad range of applications."

Plywood and veneering were much maligned in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Charles Dickens literally personified this attitude in Our Mutual Friend (1865), with its superficial, nouveau riche characters "Mr and Mrs Veneering". Public attitudes to plywood began to shift as it became an increasingly popular material in interior design in the 1930s. By the 1940s, it was firmly established as a modern design material, thanks to moulded plywood furniture by designers such as Charles and Ray Eames.

Wilk also curated the Plywood: Material Of The Modern World exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Plywood: A Material Story includes extensive notes and a wide range of historical illustrations. It will surely be the definitive work on plywood for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Voici

Voici
George and Amal Clooney have said that they will sue French magazine Voici for invasion of privacy, after it published paparazzi photographs of their two-month-old twins, Alexander and Ella. The Clooneys released a statement on Saturday, announcing that "the photographers, the agency and the magazine will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

The photographs appeared in Voici on 28th July. The magazine is frequently required to print front-page apologies after invasion of privacy complaints. Voici and similar magazines, including Closer, Public, and VSD, are downmarket versions of Paris Match, specialising in candid celebrity photographs and gossip.

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Bangkok Screening Room

Touch Of Evil
After Citizen Kane in May and June, Bangkok Screening Room will be showing another Orson Welles masterpiece this month: Touch Of Evil. The film noir classic will be screened on 15th, 16th, 19th, 20th, 23rd, 25th, 26th, 27th, 29th, 30, and 31st August; and 1st and 2nd September.

Bangkok Screening Room is Bangkok's premiere venue for classic Thai and Hollywood films. Less than a year since it opened, this superior repertory cinema has already shown Tears Of The Black Tiger, Sunset Boulevard, Uncle Boonmee, Vertigo, Casablanca, and Dr Strangelove,.