Saturday, 23 November 2013

Dark Side Of The Rainbow

Dark Side Of The Rainbow
This Wednesday, Bangkok's Jam Cafe will host screenings of two classic films set to the music of Pink Floyd. The event, Dark Side Of The Rainbow, will begin with an extract from Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (the final 'Jupiter & Beyond The Infinite' sequence), accompanied by Pink Floyd's track Echoes. This will be followed by a screening of The Wizard Of Oz, accompanied by the Pink Floyd album The Dark Side Of The Moon.

Both films were screened recently in Thailand. 2001 was shown at the Thai Film Archive last month, and The Wizard Of Oz was shown at the Bangkok Community Theatre in September.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Double Down

Double Down
Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, who covered the 2008 US presidential election in Game Change, have written a sequel, Double Down: Game Change 2012, about President Obama's re-election last year. Its UK subtitle is The Explosive Inside Account Of The 2012 Presidential Election.

2008 was an extraordinary contest, thanks to the rivalry between Obama and Hillary Clinton, the ridiculous Sarah Palin, and Obama's historic victory. 2012, when Obama defeated the bland Mitt Romney, was a more pedestrian election, though Double Down is still a fascinating account.

Halperin and Heilemann are both heavyweight political journalists, perhaps the only contemporary writers who can match Bob Woodward's level of access and influence. (Woodward's latest books are Obama's Wars and The Price Of Politics; he tends to focus on policies, whereas Halperin and Heilemann emphasise the personalities involved.)

Just as Game Change did in 2010, the revelations in Double Down have been making headlines, especially the book's claim that Obama's campaign team seriously considered replacing Joe Biden as Vice President with Hillary Clinton. The authors explain that "Biden didn't credit the speculation for a minute", though Clinton's own reaction is not included; presumably, she was one of the few key players who refused to be interviewed. Halperin and Heilemann spoke to practically everyone else, including Obama, Biden, Romney, and Bill Clinton (all on 'deep background', i.e. unattributed), though Hillary is conspicuous by her absence.

Double Down notes Obama's reaction to a previous book about his administration: he apparently complained that Ron Suskind's Confidence Men was "largely a piece of fiction". The anecdote is certainly credible, as Double Down's sources are second to none, though it also feels like schadenfreude from the authors towards one of their fellow political writers.

Halperin and Heilemann themselves became part of the narrative when Obama's election strategy was leaked to them: "two authors writing a book on the 2012 campaign knew all about the extraordinary session six weeks earlier; they had the whole roster of Obama's regrets in copious detail. "How could someone do this to me?" Obama asked". This leads to one of the book's most dramatic moments, with Obama storming out of a discussion with his most senior advisers, exasperated at the leak yet meeting another author that same afternoon: "At 2:55pm he had a meeting in the Oval Office. The meeting was with David Maraniss. For a fucking book interview". (The book was Barack Obama: The Story.)

Double Down is at its most captivating when analysing Obama's relationship with Bill Clinton, which develops from wary tolerance to mutual admiration. The book also provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of Obama's intense preparations for the presidential debates.

The midsection, with chapters devoted to the various Republican nominee contenders (Chris Christie, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, et al.), is less interesting, because Romney was clearly Obama's only serious rival. The other contenders were insignificant even in 2012, and should be only minor footnotes today.

Friday, 15 November 2013


S. Ship Of Theseus
Ship Of Theseus
S. is the new novel from JJ Abrams (director of Super 8 and Star Trek) and Doug Dorst. According to the blurb, it was 'conceived' by Abrams and written by Dorst, which presumably means that Abrams initiated the project though Dorst actually wrote the text.

The novel's title refers to its central character, S, a stranger known only by a single letter, like 'K' in Franz Kafka's The Trial. The title, and Abrams and Dorst's names, appear only on the book's slipcase; the book itself has an alternate title, author, and publisher.

The book inside the slipcase is Ship Of Theseus, written by VM Straka and translated by FX Caldiera. Ship Of Theseus was published by Winged Shoes Press in 1949, and it looks, feels, and even smells like a sixty-year-old book. It bears a 1949 copyright notice ("Printed in the United States of America"), the pages have yellowed with age, the spine has a Dewey Decimal sticker, and there are library stamps on the endpapers.

Ship Of Theseus is, of course, entirely fictitious, as are its author and translator and even its publisher. In reality, it's a novel written by Dorst, printed in China in 2013 though designed to look like a 1949 library book. When removed from its modern slipcase, Ship Of Theseus really is an incredibly convincing simulation of a 1949 hardback.

Aside from the prose text, almost every page of Ship Of Theseus contains extensive marginalia. Two students, Eric and Jennifer, have carried out a personal correspondence in the margins of the book. They use a variety of pens, with each pair of colours representing a different dialogue between them, and their handwritten notes are rendered as convincingly as the rest of the book.

In addition, there are twenty-nine pieces of ephemera inserted between the book's pages. These include several handwritten letters, picture postcards, photographs, newspaper clippings, photocopied documents, a volvelle, and even a napkin. Each of these items is reproduced as authentically as the book itself, and the attention to detail is remarkable.

Therefore, S. presents a multitude of inter-connected narratives: the text of Ship Of Theseus by Straka, the footnotes by Caldiera, the numerous threads of Eric and Jennifer's marginalia, and the supplemental material in the ephemera. Eric and Jennifer search for clues to the identity of the mysterious Straka, speculating that Caldiera and Straka may be the same person. An elusive author, a book within a book, and the mystique of old library books were also central to Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow Of The Wind.

Book publishing is currently migrating to tablets and e-readers, so it's encouraging that S. is a defiantly physical, printed object. It fetishises old-fashioned books, and Abrams and Dorst have created a perfect simulacrum of one. Publishers like Taschen specialise in elaborate collector's editions (such as Napoleon), and Visual Editions publishes novels in increasingly experimental formats (such as a reprint of Tristram Shandy), though S. is a unique and extraordinary example of innovation in book design.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

After The Music Stopped

After The Music Stopped
After The Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, The Response, & The Work Ahead, by Alan S Blinder, is the first book to fully explore the causes and consequences of the global economic meltdown that began in 2008. The collapse of America's subprime mortgage market triggered the most damaging financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and was followed by economic collapses across the Eurozone from which Greece and Spain are still recovering. (Interestingly, the 2008 collapse is known in Thailand as the 'hamburger crisis', just as Thailand's own 1997 economic meltdown was called the 'tom yam kung crisis'.)

After The Music Stops begins with an intimidating three-page list of financial acronyms, though Blinder's accessible writing style - frequent rhetorical questions, subheadings, and conversational asides - guides the reader through the economic complexities. For example: "Now, take a deep breath... this is where we move from issues that were moderately controversial - leaving bipartisan agreement at least conceivable, to issues that were supercontroversial". (This is in contrast to the dry prose of Gordon Brown's Beyond The Crash.)

The text may be accessible, though its analysis is far from superficial, and After The Music Stopped is probably the most authoritative account of the financial crisis to date. As Blinder writes in his preface: "a comprehensive history of this episode has yet to be written. A number of fine books, mostly by journalists, have examined pieces of the puzzle, sometimes in excruciating detail... My purpose, instead, is to give the big picture".

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Legendary Movies (2nd edition)

Legendary Movies
Paolo d'Agostini has written a second edition of his book Legendary Movies. The new edition, published last month, has been expanded to include a handful of films released since 2008, when the first edition was published. It also features a new, lenticular cover. 

The new films include The King's Speech, Avatar, and The Artist. Legendary Movies was translated from an original Italian text, though the extra chapters in the updated edition have been translated quite clumsily, with lines like "These simple plots, for those who desire them, do not weigh on those who settle for a romantic comedy-drama approach".

The Legendary Movies are as follows:
  • Cabiria
  • The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari
  • Nosferatu
  • Battleship Potemkin
  • Metropolis
  • The Blue Angel
  • Frankenstein
  • Grand Hotel
  • King Kong
  • It Happened One Night
  • Modern Times
  • Grand Illusion
  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Ninotchka
  • Stagecoach
  • Gone With The Wind
  • Citizen Kane
  • Casablanca
  • Arsenic & Old Lace
  • Rome: Open City
  • Gilda
  • It's A Wonderful Life
  • Bicycle Thieves
  • The Asphalt Jungle
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Singin' In The Rain
  • High Noon
  • Don Camillo
  • The Wild One
  • Roman Holiday
  • From Here To Eternity
  • A Star Is Born
  • On The Waterfront
  • Sabrina
  • Seven Samurai
  • Rear Window
  • Rebel Without A Cause
  • & God Created Woman
  • The Ten Commandments
  • The Seventh Seal
  • The Bridge On The River Kwai
  • The Great War
  • Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ
  • Some Like It Hot
  • A Summer Place
  • La Dolce Vita
  • Breathless
  • Two Women
  • Psycho
  • The Magnificent Seven
  • Breakfast At Tiffany's
  • West Side Story
  • Lolita
  • Jules & Jim
  • Lawrence Of Arabia
  • The Pink Panther

  • The Leopard
  • A Fistful Of Dollars
  • Goldfinger
  • Mary Poppins
  • Dr Zhivago
  • A Man & A Woman
  • Guess Who's Coming To Dinner
  • The Dirty Dozen
  • Belle De Jour
  • The Graduate
  • In The Heat Of The Night
  • Romeo & Juliet
  • Planet Of The Apes
  • Bullitt
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Rosemary's Baby
  • Easy Rider
  • Midnight Cowboy
  • Love Story
  • M*A*S*H
  • Dirty Harry
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Cabaret
  • The Godfather
  • The Sting
  • American Graffiti
  • The Exorcist
  • Jaws
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
  • Nashville
  • Taxi Driver
  • Rocky
  • In The Realm Of The Senses
  • Saturday Night Fever
  • Star Wars IV: A New Hope
  • Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Grease
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Manhattan
  • Alien
  • The Blues Brothers
  • The Shining
  • American Gigolo
  • The Party
  • Raiders Of The Lost Ark
  • Escape From New York
  • First Blood
  • ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
  • Blade Runner
  • Once Upon A Time In America
  • A Nightmare On Elm Street
  • Back To The Future
  • Top Gun
  • 9½ Weeks
  • Wings Of Desire
  • The Last Emperor
  • Rain Man
  • Nikita
  • Pretty Woman
  • Edward Scissorhands
  • Raise The Red Lantern
  • The Silence Of The Lambs
  • Thelma & Louise
  • Basic Instinct
  • Batman Returns
  • Schindler's List
  • Forrest Gump
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Seven
  • Mission: Impossible
  • Life Is Beautiful
  • Titanic
  • The Matrix
  • Gladiator
  • The Lord Of The Rings I-III
  • Amelie
  • Talk To Her
  • Kill Bill I-II
  • The Last Samurai
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum
  • Pirates Of The Caribbean I-III
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Twilight Saga I-V
  • Avatar
  • The King's Speech
  • The Artist
Note that Ben-Hur, Frankenstein, and The Ten Commandments are all sound films and not their earlier silent versions. Some Like It Hot is the 1959 classic, not the obscure 1939 comedy. Also, Titanic is the 1997 James Cameron version and Romeo & Juliet is the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli version.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Bangkok Theatre Festival 2013

Bangkok Theatre Festival 2013
The Bangkok Theatre Festival 2013 opened on 2nd November, and will close on 17th November. The Festival includes a revival of San-Dan-Ka, at BACC on 13th and 14th November. San-Dan-Ka, a butoh dance performance inspired by the controversial paintings of Anupong Chantorn, was first performed in 2009, at the Democrazy Theatre Studio in Bangkok.

Anupong's paintings depict monks with beaks, as if they were scavenging crows. One of his works caused controversy when it was shown as part of the 53rd National Exhibition in 2007, and he exhibited a similar piece at the 2nd Bangkok Triennale in 2009. His 2010 solo exhibition Hope In The Dark was even more provocative, with portraits of nude monks painted on saffron robes.

Cinema Diverse

Cinema Diverse
Cinema Diverse
Synecdoche, New York
The Good, The Bad, & The Weird
Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice, an annual season of free film screenings introduced by acclaimed Thai directors, began at BACC today with Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York introduced by Kongdej Jaturanrasmee. Synecdoche, New York will be shown again next week as part of this year's World Film Festival of Bangkok.

Nonzee Nimibutr (director of Nang Nak) will introduce The Good, The Bad, & The Weird, along with the film's director, Kim Jee-Woon, on 17th May 2014; the festival runs until 19th July 2014. Last year's Cinema Diverse season included a screening of Tears Of The Black Tiger introduced by its director, Wisit Sasanatieng.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Currency Crisis

Currency Crisis
Fighting Fish, Money
Currency Crisis, a group exhibition featuring interpretations on the theme of money, opened today at Whitespace Gallery's new venue in Bangkok. (Whitespace relocated from Siam to Silom earlier this year.) Each of the participating artists, from Thailand and elsewhere in South-East Asia, subverts money in some way, both physically and symbolically, either by drawing on banknotes, reducing them to powder, or sawing coins in half. The exhibition, a comment on the global economic crash and the commodification of contemporary art, will close on 29th December.

The show includes a new painting by Pornprasert Yamazaki, a distorted portrait of King Taksin, titled Butterfly. Beneath the picture is an installation of fighting fish in a row of fifty individual jars, separated by crisp twenty-baht banknotes. Butterfly represents the fish's eye-view of Taksin as depicted on the banknotes, refracted through the jars. Like the works from his solo exhibition Suicide Mind, Butterfly was painted using Pornprasert's own blood.

Previously, Kosit Juntaratip used blood in his performance art, and Kristian von Hornsleth collected Thai blood samples for his Deep Storage Art Project. Manit Sriwanichpoom soaked autopsy photographs in blood for his series Died On 6th October 1976. UDD protesters painted a banner in blood at Democracy Monument in 2010.

Private Eye

Private Eye
The Attourney General has announced that Private Eye will not face charges over its current issue (dated 1st November) with its cover portraying Rebekah Brooks as a witch. Brooks, a former editor of The Sun and the News Of The World, is currently on trial for phone-hacking. Metropolitan Police had asked news vendors near the Old Bailey in London to remove copies of the magazine from sale, as it was potentially in contempt of court.