Monday, 28 October 2019

RAW Jazz Effect

RAW Jazz Effect
Rapper P9d’s album RAW Jazz Effect was released in 2017. Each CD (packaged in a DVD case) is signed by the artist and inscribed with a line from the track Light On. The album’s full title is Ruthless and the Whole Jazz Effect.

Like his fellow Thai bands Rap Against Dictatorship, Dogwhine, and The Commoner, P9d’s lyrics are often political. The track Section 44 begins with the line “Fuck the section 44,” in reference to article 44 of the interim constitution, which granted absolute power to the military junta.

Friday, 25 October 2019

The New York Times Book of Movies

The New York Times Book of Movies
The New York Times Book of Movies: The Essential 1,000 Films to See is the third edition of a film guide that was first published in 1999 (not, as the new edition says, 1987). The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made was updated in 2004, and the retitled third edition appeared this month. The 1,000 films were selected by New York Times film critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis.

This is not the only guide to 1,000 classic films. Others include: Halliwell’s Top 1,000 by John Walker, Time Out’s 1,000 Films to Change Your Life, The Guardian’s 1,000 Films to See Before You Die, and Have You Seen...? by David Thomson.

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Siri House

Halloween
The Shining
To celebrate Halloween, Siri House in Bangkok will be showing Kubrick’s The Shining tomorrow. The screening is free of charge.

Framed

Revival
A Freedom of Information request by BuzzFeed News has revealed that the Secret Service interviewed Eminem on 16th January 2017. The rapper was questioned about his single Framed, from his album Revival, after a TMZ reporter alerted the Secret Service to the song’s lyrics. (The song is about a man who kills Trump’s eldest daughter: “how the fuck is Ivanka Trump in the trunk of my car?”)

After two days, the investigation was closed and no further action was taken, though Eminem referenced the interview in a later song, The Ringer: “Agent Orange just sent the Secret Service / To meet in person to see if I really think of hurtin’ him”. The case lends credence to another rapper, YG, who previously claimed that his single FDT was censored at the request of the Secret Service due to its violent anti-Trump lyrics.

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Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Dog of God

Dog of God
Democrazy
Dog of God is the debut EP by Thai band Dogwhine, and is available on CD from the Ageha café in Bangkok. The EP includes a couple of overtly political tracks: Leader is a dig at unelected Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (“Leader must come from election”), and Democrazy comments on the country’s cycle of military violence (“Nowhere to hide, no way to run / Not your first time to see the dictator”).

The animated promo video for Democrazy features the folding chair and hanging corpse from Neal Ulevich’s famous photograph of the 6th October 1976 massacre. (The video’s director is credited only by his nickname, Jung.) The song’s Democrazy pun echoes the name of Bangkok’s Democrazy Theatre Studio and the titles of the short films Democrazy.mov (by Thunsita Yanuprom and Sarun Channiam) and Demockrazy (by Duangporn Pakavirojkul).

Dogwhine are part of a wave of musicians using protest songs to comment on contemporary Thai politics. Rap Against Dictatorship’s anthemic Which Is My Country (ประเทศกูมี) is the most prominent example, though others include The Commoner’s EP สามัญชน (‘commoner’), P9d’s single Section 44, and the จะ4ปีแล้วนะ (‘four years already’) and BNK44 concerts.

Friday, 18 October 2019

For the Record

For the Record
Just as Tony Blair’s legacy is defined by the Iraq war, David Cameron’s premiership will also be judged by a single decision: to hold a referendum on the UK’s EU membership. Thus, it’s inevitable that Europe also overshadows Cameron’s new memoir, For the Record.

In his memoir, A Journey, Blair acknowledged the polarisation and anger caused by his support for George W. Bush’s Iraq invasion, though he also insisted that he took the decision in good faith. Similarly, For the Record begins with Cameron’s apology for the consequences of Brexit: “I am truly sorry to have seen the country I love so much suffer uncertainty and division in the years since then. But...”

Cameron also accepts some of the responsibility for losing the referendum campaign: “I deeply regret the outcome and accept that my approach failed. The decisions I took contributed to that failure. I failed. But, in my defence...”

This remorse and regret is always followed by a qualifying ‘but’, and he insists that the referendum itself was justified: “I am not apologetic about having been the prime minister who promised a referendum and delivered on the promise.” Cameron is equally unapologetic about austerity. Quite the opposite, in fact: “My assessment now is that we probably didn’t cut enough.”

As for Boris Johnson, Cameron calls him “an irritation” and later, for good measure, “a massive irritation.” He’s also clear about Johnson’s motives for supporting Brexit: “while Boris cared about this issue, it was secondary to another concern: what was the best outcome for him?”

As even Vote Leave admit, the £350m-a-week on the bus was a calculated deception. Cameron puts it rather effectively: “As Boris rode the bus around the country, he left the truth at home.” Absolutely, except now Boris is in the driving seat and, like the end of The Italian Job, we’re teetering on the edge of a cliff.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

The Amazing Thai-Land

The Amazing Thai-Land
The Amazing Thai-Land
The Amazing Thai-Land
The Amazing Thai-Land
The Amazing Thai-Land, is graphic artist Chalermpol Junrayab’s debut solo exhibition. (The title is an ironic reappropriation of the Tourist Authority of Thailand’s slogan ‘Amazing Thailand’.) Chalermpol creates parodies of comic-book covers on his iPad, satirising Thai politics.

Junta leader and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is caricatured in several of Chalermpol’s prints. In Final Curve, for example, the 24th March election campaign is depicted as a dodgem race, which Prayut (car number 44) wins with the help of a turbo engine representing the 250 senators he appointed. Another print, Buddha Man, refers to the recent Ultraman Buddha controversy, with an inset portrait of the Buddha wearing Ultraman’s costume.

The Amazing Thai-Land opened on 12th October at Sathorn 11 Art Space in Bangkok. Free copies of Chalermpol’s 2019 desk calendar are available at the exhibition, which runs until 25th October. (Political calendars caused controversy in 2016 and 2018, when calendars promoting Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra were seized by the military.)

Friday, 11 October 2019

1001 Movies
You Must See Before You Die

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
The 2019 edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die was published last week. Edited by Steven Jay Schneider, the first edition appeared in 2003, and it has been updated annually ever since (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018).

This year’s edition, revised by Ian Hayden Smith, features twelve new titles: Phantom Thread, The Greatest Showman, Crazy Rich Asians, Capernaum, A Star is Born (the Bradley Cooper remake), Avengers: Infinity War, Roma, Hereditary, The Favourite, Sorry to Bother You, Vice, and BlacKkKlansman. The new entries were all released between 2017 and 2018.

To maintain the 1001 total, a dozen films from the previous edition have been deleted: Buffalo ’66, Three Kings, Magnolia, Kippur, A One and a Two... (一 一), Amores perros, Talk to Her (Hable con ella), Victoria, Spotlight, Dawson City: Frozen in Time, Lady Macbeth, and Under the Shadow. Most previous updates removed only recent films, though this year’s deletions include some twenty-year-old classics (such as A One and a Two... and Amores perros).

There are also a couple of minor changes to the illustrations. The entry for The Burmese Harp (ビルマの竪琴) previously featured an English-language poster, though this has been replaced with the correct Japanese version (page 318); and the poster for The Gleaners and I (Les glaneurs et la glaneuse) has been mistakenly replaced by a duplicated photograph (page 883).

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Monday, 7 October 2019

ราษฎรกำแหง

ราษฎรกำแหง: บันทึก 9 คดี ต้านรัฐประหารในยุค คสช. (‘dissident citizens: nine cases against the NCPO coup’), edited by Noppon Archamas, examines the charges brought against pro-democracy activists since the 2014 coup. Its spine has an anti-coup message in Morse code (“..-. ..- -.-. -.- -.-. --- ..- .--.”), and its cover features the three-finger salute appropriated by anti-coup protesters from the film The Hunger Games.

สามัญชน

สามัญชน (‘commoner’), a new EP from the Thai band The Commoner, was released on CD this month. The EP includes a booklet with a drawing inspired by Neal Ulevich’s iconic photograph of the 6th October 1976 massacre. (A previous album, Gigantrix Extinction, also featured artwork inspired by the image, and the photograph itself appeared on the cover of the Dead Kennedys single Holiday in Cambodia.)

The five tracks on the EP all comment on Thai political issues, and the EP is dedicated to “the commoners who fought against Thai Dictatorship.” The EP is part of a long tradition of Thai protest songs, known as เพลงเพื่อชีวิต (‘songs for life’). The genre was developed by the band Caravan, in response to the 14th October 1973 massacre, and was popularised by the band Carabao.

Commoner’s Anthem (บทเพลงของสามัญชน) is a tribute to those detained in ‘attitude adjustment’ sessions after the 2014 coup. We Are Friends (เราคือเพื่อนกัน) was written for those campaigning against military graft, particularly a group arrested in 2016 while travelling to Rajabhakti Park in Hua Hin. Apology Flowers (ดอก) is about the arrests of activists campaigning for a ‘no’ vote in the 2016 referendum. The Loop (วังวน) refers to two long-standing injustices: the unsolved murder of Somchai Neelapaijit (who was abducted in 2004 after he accused the police of torturing Muslim detainees) and the 6th October massacre. Imprisoned Butterfly (ฝากรักถึงเจ้าผีเสื้อ) is dedicated to Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, who was jailed for more than two years after sharing a BBC article about King Rama X on Facebook in 2016.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Museum of October 6

Museum of October 6
Museum of October 6
Museum of October 6
Today marks the anniversary of the 6th October 1976 massacre at Thammasat University. To commemorate the event, this weekend there is an exhibition at Thammasat organised by the Museum of October 6. For the first time, artefacts from the massacre itself are on display, including a megaphone—riddled with bullet holes—used by student protesters.

The exhibition, titled ประจักษ์ / พยาน (‘evidence / witness’) is dominated by a large gate, red with rust. Two activists were hanged from this gate on 25th September 1976, after they campaigned against military dictator Thanom Kittikachorn’s return from exile. Their hanging was reenacted by Thammasat students on 4th October 1976. The reenactment was falsely portrayed by the right-wing tabloid Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) as an attack on the Crown Prince, and this incendiary report precipitated the massacre at Thammasat.

The red gate had remained undisturbed ever since the massacre, until it was rediscovered by Patporn Phoothong in 2017. Patporn, who curated the exhibition, has also made three documentaries about 6th October: Silenced Memories (ความทรงจ ไรเสยง), Respectfully Yours (ดวยความนบถอ), and The Two Brothers (สองพนอง). The red gate is also the subject of a painting at the ศิลปะนานาพันธุ์ ศิลปะประชาธิปไตย (‘art for democracy’) exhibition, currently on show elsewhere in Bangkok; and Pachara Piyasongsoot’s Anatomy of Silence (กายวิภาคของความเงียบ) exhibition included a painting depicting the hanged men’s view from the red gate.

Friday, 4 October 2019

ศิลปะนานาพันธุ์ ศิลปะประชาธิปไตย

The group exhibition ศิลปะนานาพันธุ์ ศิลปะประชาธิปไตย (‘art for democracy’) opened on 28th September at Angoon’s Garden in Bangkok. Most of the paintings in the show are displayed outside, with some hanging next to a small pond. The exhibition (a less provocative equivalent of the political art show Uncensored) runs for exactly one month.

Each artwork is a response to the Thai military’s political influence over the decades. For example, Jirapatt Aungsumalee’s painting ประตูแดง (‘red gate’) depicts the outlines of two men hanged from a red gate in 1976, the extrajudicial killings that precipitated the 6th October 1976 massacre. A painting by Ekalux Julsukont also refers to 6th October: a man ready to strike a corpse with a chair, a figure from Neal Ulevich’s iconic photograph of the massacre.

The exhibition includes a single sculpture, Pin Sasao’s ถังแดง​: ความตายของบิลลี่ (‘red barrel: the death of Billy’), which uses a mannequin and barbecue to represent the ‘red barrel’ killings of Thailand’s anti-Communist purge. There are also photographs of performance art events by Sinsawat Yodbangtoey, Memory / History / Democracy (ความทรงจำประวัติศาสตร์ประชาธิปไตย), taken at monuments marking various Thai political upheavals.

The short film The Two Brothers (สองพี่น้อง) and the Anatomy of Silence (กายวิภาคของความเงียบ) exhibition were also inspired by the ‘red gate’ hangings; the gate itself will be shown at an exhibition marking the anniversary of 6th October this weekend. The man with the chair has been painted by numerous artists, including Headache Stencil and Tawan Wattuya.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood is, as its poster proclaims, the ninth film by Quentin Tarantino. It’s also, apparently, his penultimate work. (Tarantino’s previous films are Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill I and II, Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight.)

The title is both a tribute to Once Upon a Time in the West (C’era una volta il West) and a signal that this version of 1960s Hollywood is ultimately a fairy tale. Inglourious Basterds began with the caption “Once upon a time... in Nazi-occupied France”, and the new film features a similar form of revisionist history. It’s also unashamedly nostalgic, recreating the Hollywood of Tarantino’s childhood.

All of Tarantino’s films have superb soundtracks, and Once Upon a Time... is no exception. In this case, the music is all from the period, a great early example being the lip trill from Billy Stewart’s Summertime matched to a sputtering car engine. (It’s a reversal of the moment when the music slows as the car runs out of gas in The Graduate.) In fact, the best scenes all feature Brad Pitt driving around LA listening to his car radio. However, that also hints at one of the film’s flaws: for long stretches, we simply watch the characters hanging out. This may be fun, but it’s not particularly ambitious on Tarantino’s part, especially given the epic running time.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Stone

Stone
Stone is the latest in a series of coffee-table books on building materials, edited by William Hall and published by Phaidon. Like its predecessors Concrete, Brick, and Wood, Stone features stunning full-page photographs of more than 150 buildings, each with a paragraph-length caption.

“Many of the world’s most significant, revered, influential and memorable structures are built with stone,” Hall notes in his preface. Stone is the oldest and most durable of building materials, and the book includes such architectural masterworks as the pyramids of Giza, the Parthenon, and the Taj Mahal. Various forms of stone are represented, including basalt, limestone, marble, and sandstone.

“...a long and disturbing pattern of
behaviour by the British tabloid media”

The Mail on Sunday
Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, are suing The Mail on Sunday for breach of copyright, after the newspaper printed extracts from a letter she wrote to her father, Thomas. In a statement released yesterday, Harry said: “This particular legal action hinges on one incident in a long and disturbing pattern of behaviour by British tabloid media.”

The Mail on Sunday published the letter on 10th February, in a four-page article written by Caroline Graham. Thomas Markle—who supplied it to the newspaper—has legal ownership of the letter as its recipient, though copyright is retained solely by his daughter, as its writer. Thus, the newspaper was not legally entitled to reproduce it.

The Queen sued another UK tabloid, The Sun, for breach of copyright in 1992, after it published a transcript of her Christmas broadcast two days early. More recently, Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, sued the French magazine Closer for invasion of privacy.

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