Friday, 30 June 2006

I'm Going To Tell You A Secret

I'm Going To Tell You A Secret
Madonna's new live album and documentary both have the same (slightly cumbersome) title, I'm Going To Tell You A Secret. The album includes highlights from the Reinvention Tour, and the documentary, like Truth Or Dare, includes concert footage and backstage sequences.

In the documentary, she is filmed in her car after (I think) the concert I saw, and she says it was her best Reinvention show thus far and her sweatiest show ever. We have an insight into life with Guy Ritchie and her children, though the best material is the live footage of Vogue and Nobody Knows Me. The only downside is that, towards the end, it goes into preachy Kabbalah overdrive.

The album's track-list is: The Beast Within, Vogue, Nobody Knows Me, American Life, Hollywood, Die Another Day, Lament, Like A Prayer, Mother & Father, Imagine, Into The Groove, Music, Holiday, and a demo of I Love New York.

Thursday, 29 June 2006

"Crown Prince Jigme Girlfiend"

Jigme and mystery woman
Earlier this month, Thailand celebrated King Bhumibol's sixtieth anniversary. Royalty from other nations came to join the festivities, and the whole event received extensive, reverent coverage throughout the Thai media. By far the most popular royal guest was Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, heir to the throne of Bhutan. Jigme has set hearts aflutter, and has become quite a pin-up. However, there is one photo of him that can't be distributed.

The most popular Thai web forum (Pantip) and newspaper (Thai Rath) both printed the picture, showing Jigme and an un-named woman. Thai Rath captioned it "Crown Prince Jigme Girlfiend [sic] From Bhutan paparazzi”. Yesterday, the police Department of Special Investigation imposed a ban on any further circulation of the image, though how they intend to enforce this remains unclear. It has been quietly removed from's archives.

Tuesday, 27 June 2006

The Passion Of The Christ

The Passion Of The Christ
Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ is, according to a recent Entertainment Weekly article, the most controversial film of all time. Roger Ebert has written: "the film is the most violent I have ever seen. It will probably be the most violent you have ever seen." Well, speak for yourself, Roger. The violence is protracted and excruciating, though superlatives are inappropriate.

The film, essentially a passion play, concentrates solely on the final twelve hours of Jesus's life, beginning with his arrest. Christ's near-fatal scourging, his arduous walk along the stations of the cross, and his crucifixion, are all unflinchingly documented. If Jesus did suffer and die for us, these events should certainly be presented unsanitised. A similar representation can be found in Matthias Grunewald's altarpiece The Crucifixion, depicting an emaciated, almost gangrenous Christ. The message, then, is that Christ suffered. However, there seems to be no other message besides this.

Jewish groups accused the film of anti-Semitism, claiming that Jews are portrayed in the film as a baying mob calling for Christ's death and then accepting moral responsibility for it. In fact, though it does occasionally deviate from the New Testament, the narrative is largely traditional. Pontius Pilate is presented as a rather weak leader, sympathetic to Jesus, with Herod depicted as effete and similarly sympathetic. The true villain is Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest, who personally demands Jesus's death.

When the Jews bay for Christ's blood, they are merely following Caiaphas's instigations. Thus, the film - like Monty Python's hilarious Life Of Brian - can be seen as a comment on the dearth of independent thought amongst crowds. (Life Of Brian takes this much further, of course, and criticises the unquestioning worship of organised religion itself.)

Best In Show

Best In Show
Michael Dickinson's collage Best In Show has been seized by Turkish police, and the artist faces charges of insulting the Turkish Prime Minister. The collage portrays PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a dog being petted by George W Bush. Last Year, another Turkish cartoonist was fined for depicting Erdoğan as a cat.

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Old School

Old School
I saw Wedding Crashers in February, but that's more of a romantic comedy than a true Frat Pack film. No such luck with Old School - this is pure Frat, and its plot (in which a group of almost-middle-aged men form a fraternity group) actually gave the Frat Pack its name.

Some people think that Will Ferrell is a comedy genius. I am not one of those people. Luke Wilson, like his brother Owen in Wedding Crashers, outshines the other leads. I didn't actually laugh at anything, though.

The film (by Todd Phillips) seems like Fight Club lite, with Vaughn as Brad Pitt and Wilson as Edward Norton. The director says this was a conscious decision, and the similarities between the two films are extensive. There's also a reference to The Graduate, when The Sound Of Silence is played as Ferrell falls into a swimming pool.

Old School is tamer than key frathouse films National Lampoon's Animal House and Porky's, though really there's not much point in making a tame frathouse film. (I saw the unrated version; the theatrical version is even tamer.)

Sunday, 11 June 2006

Bangkok Inside Out

Bangkok Inside Out
Bangkok Inside Out
Bangkok Inside Out, an A-Z guide to the city by Daniel Ziv and Guy Sharett published in 2004, has been banned because it focused too much on the city's drawbacks, including counterfeiting, gambling, and sex-tourism, according to Ladda Tangsuphachai at the Ministry of Culture. The book provides an irreverent and honest account of contemporary Bangkok life, though clearly it's too honest for the Ministry of Culture. In particular, they objected to the chapter about the Patpong nightlife district and a photograph of a topless bar-girl sitting on a man's lap.

The worst part is Ladda's irrational rationale for her censorship. She told Kom Chad Luek on 22nd November last year: "According to the constitution, the press has freedom to publish, so all we can do is to take the problematic books off the shelf." So, she has no power to prevent the publication, but instead she can remove the books after publication. Fortunately, some copies are still on sale, at Bookazine (Silom Complex) in Bangkok.

The case is very similar to that of Bangkok After Dark, a travelogue exploring the "perfumed pleasure palaces" of Bangkok's sex-tourism industry. That book, by Fred Poole (writing under the pen name Andrew Harris), was banned in 1968.

Saturday, 10 June 2006


Doron Nissimi
The June issue of American magazine Harper's features a cover story analysing the Jyllands-Posten Mohammed cartoons. It also includes an anti-Semitic version of Kurt Westergaard's Mohammed caricature, in which Doron Nissimi has covered the bomb/turban with a Hassidic hat.

Thursday, 8 June 2006


A cartoonist and newspaper editor have been arrested in Iran after cartoons sparked riots in the country last month. The drawings, aimed at children, were published on 12th May in Iran-E-Jomee, a weekly supplement to the state newspaper Iran.

One cartoon depicts a cockroach saying the Azerbaijani word "Namana?" ('what?'), leading to riots by Iranian Azerbaijanis who felt insulted by a cockroach speaking in their language. Cartoonist Mana Neyestani and editor Mehrdad Ghasemfar have been arrested, and the newspaper has been closed down.


Thursday, 1 June 2006

The Devil's Discus

The Devil's Discus
The Devil's Discus
A Thai translation of Rayne Kruger's book The Devil's Discus, an analysis of the circumstances surrounding the death of King Rama VIII, has been banned. The book was published in English in 1964, and that edition was banned in Thailand upon publication. (Sulak Sivaraksa was investigated for lèse-majesté last year, after publishing an article on Rama VIII's death.)

A Thai translation of The Devil's Discus was submitted by former Prime Minister Pridi Banomyong as evidence to support his defamation lawsuit against the newspaper Siam Rath in 1970. (Pridi, who served as Rama VIII's regent, was one of several people scapegoated for the King's unexplained shooting.) The translation was published anonymously by two Thammasat University students in 1974, and has since been distributed in various samizdat editions. It was officially banned yesterday, after more than thirty years.