Sunday, 29 September 2013


A painting by Ayanda Mabulu has been removed from this year's FNB Joburg Art Fair in Johannesburg, after the Art Fair organisers deemed it too controversial. The painting, titled Yakhal’inkomo, depicts South African President Jacob Zuma trampling on a protesting miner. The artist has previously depicted President Zuma naked, and a portrait of Zuma by Brett Murray was removed from another Johannesburg gallery last year. Zuma has also been caricatured by the cartoonist Zapiro.

Бей чертей

Языческие боги
Бей чертей, a song by the Russian band Corrosia Metalla, has been banned by the Russian Ministry of Justice. The Gagarinsky District Court in Moscow ruled on 22nd May that the song was 'extremist' and thus illegal, and the judgement was upheld by the Ministry of Justice on 27th September. Бей чертей was included on the band's album Языческие боги, released in 2002.


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Wizard Of Oz

The Wizard Of Oz
The Wizard Of Oz
This Friday and Saturday, there will be a screening of The Wizard Of Oz at the Bangkok Community Theatre. During the screening of the classic musical (directed by Victor Fleming), the audience will be encouraged to participate, singing along with the film's songs and wearing Oz-themed costumes.

Friday, 20 September 2013

MDNA World Tour

MDNA World Tour MDNA World Tour
Madonna's MDNA Tour has been released on video and as a double-album, both titled MDNA World Tour. DVD and blu-ray editions both feature the entire concert, filmed last year in Miami, Florida (and broadcast by Epix on 22nd June). For the first time, the live album version also includes the full concert. (Previous live CDs, Sticky & Sweet Tour, The Confessions Tour, and I'm Going To Tell You A Secret, featured only selected highlights.) The album has been released on CD in Europe and Asia - though not in America - and is also available in a dual-format edition (DVD and double CD).

The track-list is: Virgin Mary, Girl Gone Wild, Revolver, Gang Bang, Papa Don't Preach, Hung Up, I Don't Give A, Best Friend, Express Yourself, Give Me All Your Luvin', Turn Up The Radio, Open Your Heart, Masterpiece, Justify My Love, Vogue, Erotic Candy Shop, Human Nature, Like A Virgin Waltz, Love Spent, Nobody Knows Me, I'm Addicted, I'm A Sinner, Like A Prayer, and Celebration. (Erotic Candy Shop is a medley of Erotica and Candy Shop; Erotica also featured on the soundtrack of Madonna's directorial debut, Filth & Wisdom, in 2008.)

Thursday, 19 September 2013

The 20 Films You Should Watch

Today, as part of its Quick Guides series, The Times newspaper published The 20 Films You Should Watch, a list representing a concise history of cinema. The 20 Films You Should Watch, selected by Wendy Ide and Kevin Maher, are as follows:

1. Nosferatu
2. The General
3. King Kong
4. The Lady Eve
5. Citizen Kane
6. Double Indemnity
7. Bicycle Thieves
8. Rashomon
9. Singin' In The Rain
10. The Searchers
11. Vertigo
12. Breathless
13. 2001: A Space Odyssey
14. Annie Hall
15. Apocalypse Now
16. Raging Bull
17. Pulp Fiction
18. Secrets & Lies
19. Bowling For Columbine
20. Wall-E

The list is numbered, though the films are listed chronologically. It's a surprisingly good list: all of the films from #5 through to #17 are among my personal favourites. Previously, The Times compiled a list of The Top 100 Films Of All Time in 2008.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Simple Truth

The Simple Truth
The Simple Truth (an English translation of the Thai ความจริงไม่มีสี) is Abhisit Vejjajiva's account of the 2009 and 2010 political protests in Thailand. Abhisit was Thai Prime Minister from the end of 2008 (when the Constitutional Court dissolved the ruling People Power Party) until 2011 (when he was defeated by Yingluck Shinawatra in a general election). His term of office was dominated by a series of protests by the UDD. These culminated in the massacre of May 2010, during which Abhisit authorised the use of lethal force by the army, and more than ninety people were killed.

The book begins with a foreword by Korn Chatikavanij, justifying the use of military force against the protesters though regretting that "over 90 soldiers, civilians and protesters died". (Note that he lists soldiers before protesters, implying that the army suffered the most casualties, when in fact less than 10% of the victims were soldiers.) Korn even claims that the army's use of live bullets was part of the UDD's strategy: "The rationale used by the protest organisers was that, for the government to lose, protesters must die. For that to happen, the army must be armed with real bullets. And for that to happen, the army must first be attacked with real weapons".

Abhisit constantly links the UDD protesters with violence and weapons. For instance: "People could have been injured or died. I could have been the first Thai Prime Minister to die on the road", "I came face-to-face with hysteria and blind hatred that could kill", "The Red Shirts were mobilising across the entire country, effectively calling for bloodshed", "I shudder to think what might have happened had they opened fire on the troops", and "men were entering the temple, perhaps even with arms and other weapons" [my italics]. Notice his subtle linguistic device: each reference to violence is speculative or hypothetical, a rhetorical association of the red-shirts with violence.

Abhisit attributes some of the casualties to 'black-shirt' snipers who allegedly infiltrated the protest sites: "On the evening of 10 April 2010, a black-clad militia with military assault weapons launched a brutal attack on peacekeeping forces, leaving both soldiers and protesters injured and killed". As for Black May itself, he is adamant that there was no military massacre: "one thing is clear: there was never a mass killing of 90 people as the Red Shirts keep claiming". He offers no alternative explanation for the extensive bloodshed, except for another hypothetical: "could it be that the armed militia... were continuing with their strategy to destabilise the government?"

He insists that he worked tirelessly for a peaceful outcome: "I can assure you that all of us - the government and the security forces - tried our best to prevent casualties". This, of course, is at odds with his decision to order soldiers to open fire on citizens of their own country. (In contrast, he accuses Somchai Wongsawat of a "brutal suppression of PAD protesters on 7th October 2008.") One wonders who Abhisit is trying to convince. His core supporters (middle-class Bangkokians) supported the military's actions all along, and he has no need to justify his actions to them. On the other hand, anyone sympathetic to the protesters would be alienated by Abhisit's constant demonisation of the UDD.

There are some appendices, including a bizarre analysis by Philip J Cunningham of a 2012 Abhisit interview. Abhisit was interviewed by the BBC's Mishal Husain, who questioned him about the Black May military massacre. (Dismissively, he told her: "unfortunately, some people died".) Cunningham uses most of his article to suggest others whom the BBC should also interrogate, such as Thaksin Shinawatra, Barack Obama, Tony Blair, and even Mark Thompson. When he does finally turn to the Abhisit interview directly, he claims that "Husain went after Mr Abhisit - battering him with rote questions, shouting down his soft-spoken voice, playing up the lurid aspects of the case". He paints Abhisit as a helpless victim, though Husain was asking pertinent questions about civilian casualties.

Phaidon Design Classics

Phaidon Design Classics Phaidon Design Classics Phaidon Design Classics
Phaidon Design Classics
Phaidon Design Classics is a collection of 999 objects representing the entire history of design. It's published in three large volumes, each profiling 333 objects: Pioneers (001-333), Mass Production (334-666), and New Technologies (667-999). (The Spanish edition, 1,000 Objectos De Culto, includes an extra object, the iPhone. The Design Book, a mini version with 500 objects, is also available.)

The focus is on industrial design rather than graphic design, as each of the 999 entries is a physically manufactured object. Each product is represented by one or more large photographs, and each of the three volumes has more than 1,000 pages. Some of my favourites are #60 (Berliner gramophone), #239 (Anglepoise lamp), #261 (Western Electric 300 telephone), #311 (Herman Miller Lounge Chair Wood), #319 (Dualit Vario toaster), #480 (Austin Mini), #530 (Zenith staple-remover), #710 (Olivetti Valentine typewriter), #749 (Polaroid SX70 camera), #850 (Alessi 9093 kettle), #892 (Alessi Juicy Salif juicer), and #998 (Apple iMac).

The Design Encyclopedia by Mel Byars is more academic, and David Raizman's History Of Modern Design has more historical context, though they focus on designers and styles whereas Phaidon Design Classics celebrates the products themselves. Perhaps the objects are over-fetishised, and some of the text seems too much like advertising copy (for example, #417: "Any desk graced with a Rolodex marks the owner out as an efficient, busy, and well-connected individual"), though this is certainly the most comprehensive design collection ever published.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Museum Of Scandals

The Museum Of Scandals
The Museum Of Scandals: Art That Shocked The World, by Elea Baucheron and Diane Routex, is a survey of shocking and provocative art from the Renaissance until today. The book is a translation of the French Le Musee Des Scandales: L'Art Qui Fache. Like The Art Museum, it's designed as a museum in a book, with full-page reproductions of individual artworks arranged in themed galleries.

The book's scope - both historical and thematic - is wide-ranging, though it's a slim volume with less than 200 pages. There are chapters devoted to blasphemy (including Forbidden Art 2006 and Andres Serrano's crucifix-in-urine Piss Christ), political incorrectness (including Honore Daumier's Gargantua, discussed in The Art Of Controversy), and sex (including the abject Viennese Actionist performances and - in a rare uncensored reproduction - Nan Goldin's Klara & Edda Belly-Dancing).

The final chapter, discussing transgressive art, is the most fascinating. It recounts the scandals caused by modern art movements such as Impressionism, Cubism, Dada, and Abstract Expressionism (The Shock Of The New, as Robert Hughes described it), though it also covers potentially obscene artworks such as Piero Manzoni's Merda d'Artista ("what it says on the tin", as the Ronseal slogan claimed), Bodyworlds, Marco Evaristti's Helena (goldfish in blenders), and - most controversially - Xiao Yu's Ruan (the head of a human foetus attached to the body of seagull).

There are a few notable omissions. The Mohammed cartoons are not included, and neither are the pornographic Made In Heaven photographs of Jeff Koons and Ilona Staller. Rick Gibson's truly shocking Human Ear-Rings (foetuses worn as jewellery) are also missing. Robert Mapplethorpe is included, though he's represented by one of his less extreme photos. There is an index, though no bibliography or footnotes.

John A Walker's Art & Outrage had a very similar concept to The Museum Of Scandals. Steven C Dubin's Arresting Images, Kerstin Mey's Art & Obscenity, and Anthony Julius's Transgressions also cover similar ground, as does the excellent Controverses by Daniel Girardin and Christian Pirker. Brent S Plate's Blasphemy discusses sacrilegious art, and Seduced examines the history of sex in art.

The Design Book

The Design Book
The Design Book, published by Phaidon, contains photographs of 500 objects, representing the greatest examples of design from the Industrial Revolution onwards. The book's layout is based on The Art Book, The 20th Century Art Book, and The Fashion Book, also published by Phaidon. Its 500 entries were selected from the 999 objects in the three-volume Phaidon Design Classics series.

The Design Book has been printed in a more portable size than Design Classics, thus the large-scale photographs in Design Classics have been substantially reduced. Also, three new products have been added: Apple's iPhone, the Kelvin LED lamp designed by Antonio Citterio for Flos, and James Dyson's Air Multiplier fan. (Products were selected based on their historical significance, though also on their availability: all of the objects are currently in production, so no typewriters, gramophones, or film cameras are included.)

Monday, 16 September 2013

1001 Movies
You Must See Before You Die

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
The 2013 edition of Steven Jay Schneider's 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die has been published. This edition, marking the book's tenth anniversary, was revised and updated by Ian Haydn Smith. Previous editions (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) made only minor alterations to the list of 1001 films, typically replacing a dozen or so entries from the past decade. This new edition is a much more substantial revision, though: fifty films have been replaced, and the changes apply throughout the list. The book's design and illustrations have also been completely revised: the layout has been cleaned up, and hundreds of original posters have been included.

The following films (in chronological order) have been added to the 2013 edition: The Great White Silence; The Eagle; The Adventures Of Prince Achmed; A Throw Of Dice; Limite; The Goddess; Peter Ibbetson; The Lady Vanishes; Mrs Miniver; Summer With Monika; The Man With The Golden Arm; Oaklahoma!; Some Came Running; The Exiles; The Exterminating Angel; Mary Poppins; Wake In Fright; The Devils; The Hired Hand; F For Fake; The Towering Inferno; Sleeping Dogs; Christ Stopped At Eboli; Diva; The Draughtsman's Contract; Local Hero; Wall Street; Dead Ringers; Robocop; Distant Voices, Still Lives; Field Of Dreams; Hana-Bi; Bowling For Columbine; Elephant; Aileen: Life & Death Of A Serial Killer; Osama; Moolaade; The Consequences Of Love; Cave Of Forgotten Dreams; The Cabin In The Woods; Lincoln; Les Miserables; Django Unchained; Skyfall; Life Of Pi; Argo; and Amour.

Toy Story II and III have also been added, though they've been combined with the original Toy Story into a single entry (just as the Lord Of The Rings I, II, and III were consolidated into one entry in the 2008 edition). In addition, a handful of previously-deleted films from old editions have now been reinstated: Boogie Nights (deleted in 2011), Gangs Of New York (deleted in 2006), and Russian Ark (also deleted in 2006).

Fifty films have been removed from the new edition (also in chronological order): Way Down East; Seven Chances; Le Million; La Chienne; Me & My Gal; Judge Priest; Sabotage; Babes In Arms; Dance, Girl, Dance; I Walked With A Zombie; Spellbound; The Stranger; The Ghost & Mrs Muir; Angel Face; The Big Sky; Beat The Devil; Seven Brides For Seven Brothers; Animal Farm; The Man From Laramie; The Man Who Knew Too Much; The Young One; One-Eyed Jacks; Winter Light; Hombre; 1900; Five Deadly Venoms; Three Brothers; The Last Battle; Utu; The Official Story; Housekeeping; Landscape In The Mist; Story Of Women; Drowning By Numbers; Say Anything; Reversal Of Fortune; Jacob's Ladder; Naked Lunch; Aileen Wuornos: The Selling Of A Serial Killer; Casino; Pi; Dancer In The Dark; Kandahar; La Vie En Rose; Anvil!; True Grit; The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo; War Horse; The Descendants; and Hugo.

There are also some variations in foreign-language editions of 1001 Movies. The Dutch version (1001 Films Die Je Gezien Moet Hebben!) contains thirteen unique entries (Fanfare; Like Two Drops Of Water; A Flight Of Rainbirds; The Lift; Abel; The Assault; Antonia's Line; Little Sister; Character; Wilde Mossels; Black Book; Loft; and Moscow, Belgium). The Danish (1001 Film Du Skal Se For Du Dor) and Swedish (1001 Filmer Du Master Se Innan Du Dor) also feature entries from their local film industries (Day Of Wrath; Ditte, Child Of Man; Jenny & The Soldier; Cafe Paradis; One Summer Of Happiness; Raven's End; Hunger; A Swedish Love Story; Tree Of Knowledge; The Element Of Crime; My Life As A Dog; Pelle The Conqueror; Pain Of Love; Nightwatch; Fucking Amal; The One & Only; The Bench).


Friday, 13 September 2013

The Onion

The Onion
In its current issue, the satirical weekly newspaper The Onion has published a cartoon depicting an orgy involving the deities of four major religions. Jesus, Moses, and Ganesha are shown with their penises erect, and Ganesha is fisting Buddha.

The cartoon is The Onion's response to the riots in Libya that were apparently sparked by the depiction of Mohammed in the film Innocence Of Muslims. The Onion's headline "No One Murdered Because Of This Image" makes the point that Jews, Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists do not resort to violence when their religions are offended, whereas some Muslims do.

Jesus has been depicted with an erection in Terence Koh's sculpture Gone Yet Still, and in two cartoons in the student magazine The Insurgent. A Belgian sculptor was prosecuted for blasphemy in 1988 after depicting a tumescent Jesus. Also, Danish artist Jens Jorgen Thorsen painted a tumescent Christ on the wall of a railway station in 1984. JAM Montoya's 1997 photograph El Ultimo Deseo depicts Christ with an erection. A series of three paintings (Man Of Sorrows, circa 1530) by Maaten van Heemskerck depict Christ in a similar state, as discussed in Leo Steinberg's book The Sexuality Of Christ In Renaissance Art & In Modern Oblivion.

A less explicit cartoon depicting a post-coital Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, and Buddha was published by the Israeli magazine Nana in 2006, one of many Mohammed cartoons published in solidarity with Jyllands-Posten, which caused widespread protests with its Mohammed caricatures in 2005.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Radio Times Guide To Films 2014

Radio Times Guide To Films 2014
The Radio Times Guide To Films 2014, edited by Sue Robinson, includes capsule reviews of 23,077 films, including 506 new entries. (Last year's edition reviewed 23,068 films, thus 497 have been deleted from the old edition to accommodate this year's new entries, though some of the deletions were previews replaced by reviews.)

The Radio Times Guide To Films, now in its fourteenth edition, is one of the only comprehensive annual film guides still available in print. Halliwell's Film Guide was put to rest after its awful The Movies That Matter edition. The Time Out Film Guide was cancelled last year. Leonard Maltin's annual guide has been split into two editions: a Classic Movie Guide and The Modern Era. VideoHound still publishes its phone-directory-sized annual Golden Movie Retriever, though it's limited to films released on video.

Like Time Out's reviews, the Radio Times Guide To Films entries are all available online for free, so it remains to be seen how long the Guide will continue to be printed. Clearly, though, the publishers feel that there's still a market for such a mainstream and traditional book, perhaps due to the older average age of Radio Times readers. The Guide's cover photo - Clint Eastwood in a still from A Fistful Of Dollars - is another clue that the Guide is catering to an older demographic.

The new entries this year include Hitchcock ("disappointingly inconsequential"), The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ("takes a while for the story to get going"), Only God Forgives ("agonisingly slow, and punctuated with graphic scenes of violence"), Lincoln ("brings to life a moment of 19th-century political brinkmanship in captivating style"), and Django Unchained ("audacious and thrilling"). They were all previewed in last year's edition, though they have actually been reviewed in the new edition. (Previews in the new edition include The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, which is still in production! Including such entries for forthcoming films seems premature and un-necessary.)

Saturday, 7 September 2013


งานมอบรางวัลหนังน่าจะแบน, a mini film festival showcasing films that test the limits of Thai censorship, was held today at BACC. The organisers invited directors to submit provocative and controversial films, to be judged not only on merit but also on their likelihood of being banned.

The competition was organised to highlight the continuing problem of film censorship in Thailand, after the banning of recent Thai films Shakespeare Must Die, Insects In The Backyard, and This Area Is Under Quarantine. A similar event, the Freedom On Film seminar, was held at BACC in June.