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 35mm 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.