31 January 2014

El Universo

El Universo
Ecuador's state media watchdog SuperCom, the Superintendency of Information and Communication, today fined the newspaper El Universo 2% of its revenue from the past three months, in relation to a cartoon by Xavier Bonilla (known as Bonil). The newspaper was also ordered to print an apology and a revised version of the cartoon.

Bonil's cartoon, published on 28th December last year, depicted a police raid on the home of journalist Fernando Villavicencio, who had been investigating allegations of government corruption. The cartoon's caption stated that the police were removing evidence to avoid incriminating the government. President Rafael Correa criticised the cartoon in a speech earlier this month.

El Universo

El Universo
Ecuador's state media watchdog SuperCom, the Superintendency of Information and Communication, today fined the newspaper El Universo 2% of its revenue from the past three months, in relation to a cartoon by Xavier Bonilla (known as Bonil). The newspaper was also ordered to print an apology and a revised version of the cartoon.

Bonil's cartoon, published on 28th December last year, depicted a police raid on the home of journalist Fernando Villavicencio, who had been investigating allegations of government corruption. The cartoon's caption stated that the police were removing evidence to avoid incriminating the government. President Rafael Correa criticised the cartoon in a speech earlier this month.

29 January 2014

Jesus & Mo

Jesus & Mo
Jesus & Mo Volume I
Jesus & Mo Volume I: Where's The Soap? is the first of six compilations of the online comic Jesus & Mo. This first volume, published in 2006, contains the first fifty comic strips. Subsequent collections were published in 2008 (volumes II, III, and IV), 2010 (volume V), and 2013 (volume VI).

Jesus & Mo is one of many Mohammed cartoons published in solidarity with Jyllands-Posten, which printed twelve Mohammed caricatures in 2005. Charlie Hebdo published a Mohammed comic book last year, La Vie De Mahomet (volume I; volume II). Technically, Jesus & Mo does not depict Mohammed, as its first comic reveals that Mo is Mohammed's body double.

27 January 2014

Conversations With Thaksin

Conversations With Thaksin
Conversations With Thaksin - From Exile To Deliverance: Thailand's Populist Tycoon Tells His Story is a collection of interviews with Thaksin Shinawatra conducted by Tom Plate. The interviews took place in Dubai, where Thaksin is living in exile, and lasted for over ten hours, thus Thaksin's life - both political and personal - is covered in considerable depth.

As its title suggests, the interviews are conversations rather than probing interrogations: Thaksin is essentially given a platform to rehabilitate his reputation, and the author rarely challenges his version of events. (In that sense, the book has unfortunate echoes of Sunisa Lertpakawat's Thaksin, Where Are You?) The title also implies a certain informality, and this is reflected in Plate's colloquial writing style. Phrases such as "wow, everyone seemingly is in an excellent mood!" feel inappropriate for a political interview.

Astonishingly, Thaksin suggests that he could return to Thailand by royal appointment: "if the monarchy were kind enough to appoint me as an advisor to the Crown Property, I can help Crown Property do better financially." He adds, "But I don't want to have a Privy Councilor position", as if such an offer were even remotely possible.

The various controversies of Thaksin's premiership are reconfigured with Thaksin in the role of victim. He says that the sale of Shin Corp. to Temasek (arguably his biggest miscalculation) was actually his children's idea: "My children, they came to me, they said... it might be a good idea for us to sell." The confiscation of his assets is mentioned only in relation to his decision to sell Manchester City FC: "With assets frozen in Bangkok, I didn't have enough money to support the club." Thaksin even uses the notorious Tak Bai incident to elicit personal sympathy: "the tragic and embarrassing incident was part of the plot to topple me".

Plate sides with Thaksin and his wife over the Ratchada land deal conviction: "In fact, there was no duplicity. She didn't hide anything." He glosses over the thousands of deaths following Thaksin's drugs crackdown: "Innocent people were being scooped up in the military sweeps", though devotes multiple pages to softer issues such as Thaksin's sporting interests and shopping trips.

Even though the book was published in Singapore, Plate removed any material that could potentially contravene Thailand's lèse-majesté law. This self-censorship becomes apparent when Thaksin discusses the origins of the 2006 coup: "they thought that they would make the monarchy so happy with them by getting me. [content here deleted]". (The effect is the same as the "expletive deleted" redactions in the Watergate transcripts; Thaksin's comments are similar to those he made in a Financial Times interview on 20th April 2009.)

Plate is less cautious when it comes to General Prem, referring to "Prem Tinsulanonda, one of the men behind the coup". (Note the omission of the word 'allegedly'.) Later, he mentions "such an openly gay officer like Prem". (Rumours of Prem's homosexuality have not been officially confirmed or acknowledged by the Thai media; Paul Handley's The King Never Smiles notes that Prem "was so discreet that no one could ever expose his homosexuality".)

[Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party won its first Thai general election in 2001, and its second term began in 2005. Following protests against him, he called an election in April 2006. He won the election, though it was later nullified by the Constitutional Court. Following the coup, TRT was dissolved, and Thaksin was banned from politics for five years. He left Thailand while on bail for corruption charges, and currently lives in exile in Dubai. His sister Yingluck became Prime Minister in 2011; her proposal for an amnesty, which would have whitewashed Thaksin's conviction, led to Suthep's protests last year.]

The Wolf Of Wall Street

The Wolf Of Wall Street
The Wolf Of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese, was based on the memoir of Jordan Belfort, a former stockbroker convicted of fraud. It was written by Terence Winter, the creator of Boardwalk Empire (which Scorsese has also directed). The script was intentionally modelled on the style of Scorsese's GoodFellas, and The Wolf's voice-over narration and direct-to-camera monologues are familiar devices from that earlier film.

Leonardo DiCaprio (in another totally unsympathetic role, following Django Unchained) gives a tour-de-force performance, though his character is so OTT that the three-hour running time is exhausting: the entire film feels like the hyperactive final reels of GoodFellas. This is Scorsese and DiCaprio's fifth collaboration, following Gangs Of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, and Shutter Island. It's one of Scorsese's most explicit and excessive films, with even more drugs and profanity than The Departed; like Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, its sex scenes were edited to avoid an 'NC-17' rating.

The Wolf Of Wall Street

The Wolf Of Wall Street
The Wolf Of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese, was based on the memoir of Jordan Belfort, a former stockbroker convicted of fraud. It was written by Terence Winter, the creator of Boardwalk Empire (which Scorsese has also directed). The script was intentionally modelled on the style of Scorsese's GoodFellas, and The Wolf's voice-over narration and direct-to-camera monologues are familiar devices from that earlier film.

Leonardo DiCaprio (in another totally unsympathetic role, following Django Unchained) gives a tour-de-force performance, though his character is so OTT that the three-hour running time is exhausting: the entire film feels like the hyperactive final reels of GoodFellas. This is Scorsese and DiCaprio's fifth collaboration, following Gangs Of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, and Shutter Island. It's one of Scorsese's most explicit and excessive films, with even more drugs and profanity than The Departed; like Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, its sex scenes were edited to avoid an 'NC-17' rating.

26 January 2014

"There will be violence..."

Suthep Thaugsuban's 'Bangkok Shutdown' began on 13th January, when his protesters blocked seven major intersections around the city in a campaign against Prime Minister Yingluck. Tens of thousands of protesters took part on the first day, though fewer than the estimated 100,000 who joined his anti-amnesty protests last year.

By the second day of the shutdown, however, the crowds were noticeably reduced, and they have been dwindling ever since. There has been no attempt, by either the police or the army, to disperse the protesters, though the government declared a state of emergency in Bangkok on Wednesday.

An election has been scheduled for 2nd February, though it is being boycotted by the Democrats. Advanced voting began today, however Suthep's protesters obstructed polling stations around the country. The protesters were so disruptive that they succeeded in closing all fifty polling stations in Bangkok. The leader of one faction of protesters, Suthin Taratin, was shot in the head and killed after he closed one of the city's polling stations.

The success of the election depends on the co-operation of the Election Commission, though the EC appeared to acquiesce to the protesters. In an interview with The New York Times, EC spokesman Somchai Srisutthiyakorn advocated an election postponement: "I am afraid that if the election goes ahead, there will be violence and it may lead to a coup". In the past, the EC's competence and impartiality have also been questioned: its members were jailed following their mismanagement of the 2006 election, and PPP MP Yongyuth Tiyaphairat was disqualified after the EC hastily endorsed him.

The Election Commission petitioned the Constitutional Court, asking it to determine who, if anyone, could legally delay the election. The Court's ruling did nothing to clarify the situation, however. The judges announced that it was possible to delay the election within the bounds of the constitution, though they did not adjudicate on who had the authority to authorise such a delay. Instead, they simply called on the government and the Election Commission to negotiate and reach a mutual understanding. A meeting between the government and the EC has been called for 28th January, in an attempt to end the current stalemate.

In its judgement on Friday, the Constitutional Court argued that an election delay is legally possible because the constitution does not directly forbid it. However, article 108 says that an election must be held within forty-five to sixty days of the dissolution of parliament; it does not explicitly rule out a delay, because the sixty-day deadline does not require further clarification. There are provisions to postpone voting and vote-counting in cases of emergency, according to articles 78 and 85 respectively, though these apply only to individual polling stations, not to an entire election.

The Court cited 2006 as a precedent for a delay, though this seems to be a misinterpretation of the 2006 election. An election was held on 2nd April 2006 (also boycotted by the Democrats), though that election was later nullified by the Court. A second election was then scheduled for 15th October, though it was prevented by a coup. Thus, the 2006 election was not delayed; it took place as planned, but was later declared void and rescheduled. It does not, therefore, provide an adequate precedent or justification for a delay this year.

The Constitutional Court has a history of anti-Thaksin judgements. It dissolved TRT though exonerated the Democrats, it disqualified Samak Sundaravej for hosting a TV cookery show, and it dissolved the PPP to placate the PAD protesters.

More recently, the Court prevented the government from amending articles 117 (restoring an elected Senate) and 190 (authorising international agreements) of the constitution. Last week, the Election Commission rejected the government's request to borrow the money required to fulfill its commitment to rice farmers. With parliament dissolved, power currently lies with these two unelected bodies whose neutrality is in question yet who have the authority to over-rule government policy.

"There will be violence..."

Suthep Thaugsuban's 'Bangkok Shutdown' began on 13th January, when his protesters blocked seven major intersections around the city in a campaign against Prime Minister Yingluck. Tens of thousands of protesters took part on the first day, though fewer than the estimated 100,000 who joined his anti-amnesty protests last year.

By the second day of the shutdown, however, the crowds were noticeably reduced, and they have been dwindling ever since. There has been no attempt, by either the police or the army, to disperse the protesters, though the government declared a state of emergency in Bangkok on Wednesday.

An election has been scheduled for 2nd February, though it is being boycotted by the Democrats. Advanced voting began today, however Suthep's protesters obstructed polling stations around the country. The protesters were so disruptive that they succeeded in closing all fifty polling stations in Bangkok. The leader of one faction of protesters, Suthin Taratin, was shot in the head and killed after he closed one of the city's polling stations.

The success of the election depends on the co-operation of the Election Commission, though the EC appeared to acquiesce to the protesters. In an interview with The New York Times, EC spokesman Somchai Srisutthiyakorn advocated an election postponement: "I am afraid that if the election goes ahead, there will be violence and it may lead to a coup". In the past, the EC's competence and impartiality have also been questioned: its members were jailed following their mismanagement of the 2006 election, and PPP MP Yongyuth Tiyaphairat was disqualified after the EC hastily endorsed him.

The Election Commission petitioned the Constitutional Court, asking it to determine who, if anyone, could legally delay the election. The Court's ruling did nothing to clarify the situation, however. The judges announced that it was possible to delay the election within the bounds of the constitution, though they did not adjudicate on who had the authority to authorise such a delay. Instead, they simply called on the government and the Election Commission to negotiate and reach a mutual understanding. A meeting between the government and the EC has been called for 28th January, in an attempt to end the current stalemate.

In its judgement on Friday, the Constitutional Court argued that an election delay is legally possible because the constitution does not directly forbid it. However, article 108 says that an election must be held within forty-five to sixty days of the dissolution of parliament; it does not explicitly rule out a delay, because the sixty-day deadline does not require further clarification. There are provisions to postpone voting and vote-counting in cases of emergency, according to articles 78 and 85 respectively, though these apply only to individual polling stations, not to an entire election.

The Court cited 2006 as a precedent for a delay, though this seems to be a misinterpretation of the 2006 election. An election was held on 2nd April 2006 (also boycotted by the Democrats), though that election was later nullified by the Court. A second election was then scheduled for 15th October, though it was prevented by a coup. Thus, the 2006 election was not delayed; it took place as planned, but was later declared void and rescheduled. It does not, therefore, provide an adequate precedent or justification for a delay this year.

The Constitutional Court has a history of anti-Thaksin judgements. It dissolved TRT though exonerated the Democrats, it disqualified Samak Sundaravej for hosting a TV cookery show, and it dissolved the PPP to placate the PAD protesters.

More recently, the Court prevented the government from amending articles 117 (restoring an elected Senate) and 190 (authorising international agreements) of the constitution. Last week, the Election Commission rejected the government's request to borrow the money required to fulfill its commitment to rice farmers. With parliament dissolved, power currently lies with these two unelected bodies whose neutrality is in question yet who have the authority to over-rule government policy.

Closer

Closer
Closer has been ordered to pay 2,500 euros in damages to French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti, who sued the magazine for invasion of privacy after it published a paparazzi photograph of her on holiday in Mauritius. The photo appeared last year, in the magazine's 12th January 2013 issue.

Earlier this month, the magazine was sued by Julie Gayet, the mistress of French President Francois Hollande. It was sued by Hollande's partner, Valerie Trierweiler, in 2012. In that same year, it published topless photographs of Kate Middleton.

Closer

Closer
Closer has been ordered to pay 2,500 euros in damages to French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti, who sued the magazine for invasion of privacy after it published a paparazzi photograph of her on holiday in Mauritius. The photo appeared last year, in the magazine's 12th January 2013 issue.

Earlier this month, the magazine was sued by Julie Gayet, the mistress of French President Francois Hollande. It was sued by Hollande's partner, Valerie Trierweiler, in 2012. In that same year, it published topless photographs of Kate Middleton.

25 January 2014

Quote of the day...

The New York Times
Election Commission member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn has repeatedly called for the election to be delayed. In an interview with The New York Times, he made the oxymoronic and scaremongering claim that an election would lead to another coup.

Somchai's public statements have added to the perception that the EC is a partisan group intent on obstructing the election. Previous quotes of the day: hypocrisy from Suthep, the army chief on the GT200, a PAD leader says Thailand should be more like North Korea, the ICT Minister openly admits to violating the Computer Crime Act, and a patronising Ministry of Culture official.

Quote of the day...

The New York Times
Election Commission member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn has repeatedly called for the election to be delayed. In an interview with The New York Times, he made the oxymoronic and scaremongering claim that an election would lead to another coup.

Somchai's public statements have added to the perception that the EC is a partisan group intent on obstructing the election. Previous quotes of the day: hypocrisy from Suthep, the army chief on the GT200, a PAD leader says Thailand should be more like North Korea, the ICT Minister openly admits to violating the Computer Crime Act, and a patronising Ministry of Culture official.

22 January 2014

Rebel Art Space

Rebel Art Space
People Fuck The Police
Rebel Art Space, one of Bangkok's newest art galleries, opened on 11th December last year. The gallery's inaugural exhibition, portraits of Narin Klung by Vasan Sitthiket, runs until 8th February. There is also a permanent collection, selected from Vasan's previous works, including self-portraits from his Chaotic Victory series.

Rebel Art Space also serves as Vasan's studio, and his current works are responses to the anti-government demonstrations in Bangkok. People Fuck The Police, a life-sized print criticising the Thai police's political bias, has a typically direct message, inspired by NWA's controversial single Fuck Tha Police from 1988.

In Thailand, criticisms are almost always made indirectly to save face, and discussion of sensitive subjects, even in the media, is usually camouflaged by innuendo. Vasan, however, pulls no punches; unusually for an established Thai artist, he is refreshingly blunt in his treatment of politics, sex, and religion. Hypocrisy and Ten Evil Scenes Of Thai Politic [sic], for example, portray politicians such as Thaksin Shinawatra and Suthep Thaugsuban as thoroughly corrupt figures succumbing to the sins of lust and greed. His self-portraits, as in The Human Clay, often depict him not only nude but also tumescent.

In 2000, Vasan's exhibition What Is In Our Heads? was censored by Chulalongkorn University. Like Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Withit Sembutr, and Anupong Chantorn, Vasan's depiction of monks has also caused controversy: his 1992 painting Buddha Returns To Bangkok depicted a monk raping a woman, and Obsessive Compulsive included paintings of monks having sex. In Flavours, his book on contemporary Thai art, Steven Pettifor describes Vasan as "the country's most outrageous artist". Some of his video works, including the scatological There Must Be Something Happen, were shown at From Message To Media.

20 January 2014

Quote of the day...

The Nation
Suthep Thaugsuban issued a threat to UDD protesters before the 2010 military massacre. Three years later, and Suthep is now attempting to "shut down Bangkok" using precisely the tactics that he formerly condemned.

In another example of hypocrisy, Suthep is campaigning against corruption despite his own reputation as a corrupt MP. Previous quotes of the day: the army chief on the GT200, a PAD leader says Thailand should be more like North Korea, the ICT Minister openly admits to violating the Computer Crime Act, and a patronising Ministry of Culture official.

Quote of the day...

The Nation
Suthep Thaugsuban issued a threat to UDD protesters before the 2010 military massacre. Three years later, and Suthep is now attempting to "shut down Bangkok" using precisely the tactics that he formerly condemned.

In another example of hypocrisy, Suthep is campaigning against corruption despite his own reputation as a corrupt MP. Previous quotes of the day: the army chief on the GT200, a PAD leader says Thailand should be more like North Korea, the ICT Minister openly admits to violating the Computer Crime Act, and a patronising Ministry of Culture official.

17 January 2014

Closer

Closer
Closer
Actress Julie Gayet has issued a lawsuit against the French gossip magazine Closer, suing for breach of privacy and seeking 50,000 euros in damages. In its 10th January issue, the magazine published a series of photographs that it claims depict Gayet and French President Francois Hollande meeting for an affair.

Following Gayet's writ, the magazine has pixelated the Hollande and Gayet photographs on its website. Gayet is also suing over a picture in the current print edition, taken by Laurent Viers and published today, showing Gayet in her car.

Hollande has not commented directly on Closer's allegations. His partner, Valerie Trierweiler, sued Closer and other magazines in 2012. Hollande is unpopular due to the country's weak economy, though the French respect for privacy means that the controversy is unlikely to be politically damaging.

Closer previously caused a scandal when it printed topless photographs of Kate Middleton. Middleton and Prince William sued successfully, and the magazine was ordered to cease all distribution of the photos.

PDF

Closer

Closer
Closer
Actress Julie Gayet has issued a lawsuit against the French gossip magazine Closer, suing for breach of privacy and seeking 50,000 euros in damages. In its 10th January issue, the magazine published a series of photographs that it claims depict Gayet and French President Francois Hollande meeting for an affair.

Following Gayet's writ, the magazine has pixelated the Hollande and Gayet photographs on its website. Gayet is also suing over a picture in the current print edition, taken by Laurent Viers and published today, showing Gayet in her car.

Hollande has not commented directly on Closer's allegations. His partner, Valerie Trierweiler, sued Closer and other magazines in 2012. Hollande is unpopular due to the country's weak economy, though the French respect for privacy means that the controversy is unlikely to be politically damaging.

Closer previously caused a scandal when it printed topless photographs of Kate Middleton. Middleton and Prince William sued successfully, and the magazine was ordered to cease all distribution of the photos.

PDF

14 January 2014

50 Photo Icons

50 Photo Icons
50 Photo Icons: The Story Behind The Pictures, by Hans-Michael Koetzle, examines fifty acclaimed photographs. (Nick Út's image of a napalm attack in Vietnam is one of the most famous examples.) The selection includes portraits, fashion, and war photography, and begins with the earliest extant photograph, taken by Joseph Niepce in 1827.

Koetzle, who also wrote Photographers A-Z, describes the circumstances in which each picture was taken, and their places in the careers of each photographer. Further context is provided by images taken during the same sessions as the photos in question, and examples of how the photographs have appeared in print.

The book, published by Taschen, was originally issued in two volumes as Photo Icons I and II. (In fact, the introduction has not been updated, and still refers to "the two volumes".) Each chapter presents an in-depth account of each photograph, together with a full-page reproduction, though only fifty images were selected, thus many classic photos were omitted. (There are no images by Irving Penn or Andreas Gursky, for example.)

Many of the world's most famous photographers - including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, and Sebastiao Salgado - are featured, though each photographer is represented by only one key photograph. Some notably controversial photographers, such as Joel-Peter Witkin and Robert Mapplethorpe, are also included.

Koetzle describes 50 Photo Icons as a "potted history of the medium". Beaumont Newhall's The History Of Photography, Naomi Rosenblum's A World History Of Photography, and Mary Warner Marien's Photography: A Cultural History provide a more complete account of the history of photography. Marien's 100 Ideas That Changed Photography and David Prakel's Visual Dictionary Of Photography are concise guides to photography's technical development.

09 January 2014

"That door is neither open nor closed..."

On 21st December last year, the Democrat Party confirmed that it will boycott the upcoming general election, scheduled for 2nd February. Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said: "The Thai people have lost their faith in the democratic system." More accurately, perhaps, the Thai people have lost their faith in the Democrat Party. The Democrats have lost the last five elections, though rather than revamping their party or refreshing their leadership, they chose to abandon parliamentary democracy altogether, resigning from parliament en masse and joining Suthep's street protests.

The Democrat Party's election boycott was hardly surprising, though it could have very dramatic consequences. The Democrats previously boycotted the 2006 election, and that election was subsequently invalidated. The consequent power vacuum ultimately led to a coup later that year.

On 28th December, General Prayut was asked to comment on persistent rumours of another military coup, and his answer was highly ambiguous. He said, "That door is neither open nor closed. Everything depends on the situation", an extraordinary public admission and a sign of the army's continued sense of impunity.

Prayut was speaking after violent protests in Bangkok on Boxing Day, during which a police officer was shot and killed. Protesters led by Suthep were blocking access to the stadium where candidates were registering for the election. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets against the demonstrators, as they did in December when Suthep's supporters occupied Government House and other state buildings.

Suthep has announced another protest scheduled for next week, claiming that he will "shut down Bangkok" on 13th January by blocking major intersections surrounding the city centre. He also set another of his many deadlines, issuing an ultimatum for Yingluck to resign before 15th January. 

After the protests, Election Commission member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn called on the government to postpone the election. He even hinted that some commissioners might resign in order to delay it. However, Pheu Thai leader Charupong Ruangsuwan insisted that the election would go ahead, and instructed the Election Commission to do its duty by facilitating, rather than obstructing, the election.

Because of the chaos surrounding the registration process, candidates in only 472 constituencies were able to register before the deadline. At least 475 MPs, from a total of 500, are required to form a new government; thus, even if the election were to go ahead, it would be open to legal challenges as there are not enough candidates to form a quorum.

In an unfortunate echo of 2006 and 2008, the government is facing pressure not only from protesters but also from the Constitutional Court. The Court ruled in November that Pheu Thai's bill to amend article 117 of the constitution, restoring a fully-elected Senate, was unconstitutional. Yesterday, the Court ruled that another attempt to amend the charter (article 190, relating to the signing of international agreements) was also unlawful. (The constitution was drafted by the military in 2007; Abhisit also proposed amending article 190 when he was in office in 2010.)

On 7th January, the National Anti-Corruption Commission announced that it will begin impeachment proceedings against 308 of the MPs who voted to amend article 117. Yingluck herself also faces potential NACC impeachment proceedings relating to her rice subsidy policy. The Constitutional Court is also currently investigating Pheu Thai's proposed high-speed rail scheme, and its judges yesterday declared that the project was un-necessary and contravened the King's 'sufficiency economy' philosophy.

The bill authorising the loan for the high-speed rail project had already been passed by both houses of parliament, though it is now being vetoed by the Constitutional Court. With the Court over-ruling government policies, and the NACC planning to impeach most Pheu Thai MPs, are we seeing the beginnings of another judicial coup, as occurred in 2008?

"That door is neither open nor closed..."

On 21st December last year, the Democrat Party confirmed that it will boycott the upcoming general election, scheduled for 2nd February. Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said: "The Thai people have lost their faith in the democratic system." More accurately, perhaps, the Thai people have lost their faith in the Democrat Party. The Democrats have lost the last five elections, though rather than revamping their party or refreshing their leadership, they chose to abandon parliamentary democracy altogether, resigning from parliament en masse and joining Suthep's street protests.

The Democrat Party's election boycott was hardly surprising, though it could have very dramatic consequences. The Democrats previously boycotted the 2006 election, and that election was subsequently invalidated. The consequent power vacuum ultimately led to a coup later that year.

On 28th December, General Prayut was asked to comment on persistent rumours of another military coup, and his answer was highly ambiguous. He said, "That door is neither open nor closed. Everything depends on the situation", an extraordinary public admission and a sign of the army's continued sense of impunity.

Prayut was speaking after violent protests in Bangkok on Boxing Day, during which a police officer was shot and killed. Protesters led by Suthep were blocking access to the stadium where candidates were registering for the election. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets against the demonstrators, as they did in December when Suthep's supporters occupied Government House and other state buildings.

Suthep has announced another protest scheduled for next week, claiming that he will "shut down Bangkok" on 13th January by blocking major intersections surrounding the city centre. He also set another of his many deadlines, issuing an ultimatum for Yingluck to resign before 15th January. 

After the protests, Election Commission member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn called on the government to postpone the election. He even hinted that some commissioners might resign in order to delay it. However, Pheu Thai leader Charupong Ruangsuwan insisted that the election would go ahead, and instructed the Election Commission to do its duty by facilitating, rather than obstructing, the election.

Because of the chaos surrounding the registration process, candidates in only 472 constituencies were able to register before the deadline. At least 475 MPs, from a total of 500, are required to form a new government; thus, even if the election were to go ahead, it would be open to legal challenges as there are not enough candidates to form a quorum.

In an unfortunate echo of 2006 and 2008, the government is facing pressure not only from protesters but also from the Constitutional Court. The Court ruled in November that Pheu Thai's bill to amend article 117 of the constitution, restoring a fully-elected Senate, was unconstitutional. Yesterday, the Court ruled that another attempt to amend the charter (article 190, relating to the signing of international agreements) was also unlawful. (The constitution was drafted by the military in 2007; Abhisit also proposed amending article 190 when he was in office in 2010.)

On 7th January, the National Anti-Corruption Commission announced that it will begin impeachment proceedings against 308 of the MPs who voted to amend article 117. Yingluck herself also faces potential NACC impeachment proceedings relating to her rice subsidy policy. The Constitutional Court is also currently investigating Pheu Thai's proposed high-speed rail scheme, and its judges yesterday declared that the project was un-necessary and contravened the King's 'sufficiency economy' philosophy.

The bill authorising the loan for the high-speed rail project had already been passed by both houses of parliament, though it is now being vetoed by the Constitutional Court. With the Court over-ruling government policies, and the NACC planning to impeach most Pheu Thai MPs, are we seeing the beginnings of another judicial coup, as occurred in 2008?

08 January 2014

Noir Month

Noir Month
The Killing
Bangkok's Jam Cafe begins a season of film noir screenings this evening, as part of their weekly Cult Movie Night. The first Noir Month film is Stanley Kubrick's classic The Killing. Jam previously screened an extract from Kubrick's 2001 at last year's Dark Side Of The Rainbow event.

Noir Month

Noir Month
The Killing
Bangkok's Jam Cafe begins a season of film noir screenings this evening, as part of their weekly Cult Movie Night. The first Noir Month film is Stanley Kubrick's classic The Killing. Jam previously screened an extract from Kubrick's 2001 at last year's Dark Side Of The Rainbow event.

Anime: A History

Anime: A History
In his new book Anime: A History, Jonathan Clements explores a century of Japanese animation. The masters of the genre, such as Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy), Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), and Hiyao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, Spirited Away), are included, though Clements also highlights many overlooked and obscure anime productions.

The first half of the book covers the rarely-seen animation made in the early 20th century. The subsequent explosion of anime on television (Astro Boy) and video (Dallos), and the global successes of Pokemon and Ghibli, dominate the book's second half. Clements notes that "There is... no full-length history of Japanese animation available in English - an omission this book seeks to remedy". He previously co-wrote The Anime Encyclopedia, the most comprehensive English-language guide to anime. The World Encyclopedia Of Cartoons (Maurice Horn) and Cartoons (Giannalberto Bendazzi) also discuss Japanese animation.

02 January 2014

Castles, Candles, & Kubrick

Castles, Candles, & Kubrick is a radio documentary about the making of Barry Lyndon. The programme interviews several of the film's cast and crew, who discuss Kubrick's decision to shoot the film in Ireland and the IRA threats issued during the production.

The documentary was produced by Pavel Barter, and was first broadcast on the Irish radio station Newstalk on 19th October last year. It was repeated the next day, and was broadcast again yesterday. An episode of the Italian TV documentary series Stanley & Us (A Lume Di Candela, 1999) also covered the making of Barry Lyndon.

Castles, Candles, & Kubrick

Castles, Candles, & Kubrick is a radio documentary about the making of Barry Lyndon. The programme interviews several of the film's cast and crew, who discuss Kubrick's decision to shoot the film in Ireland and the IRA threats issued during the production.

The documentary was produced by Pavel Barter, and was first broadcast on the Irish radio station Newstalk on 19th October last year. It was repeated the next day, and was broadcast again yesterday. An episode of the Italian TV documentary series Stanley & Us (A Lume Di Candela, 1999) also covered the making of Barry Lyndon.

29 December 2013

The Story Of Design

The Story Of Design, by Charlotte and Peter Fiell, is billed as "the first ever comprehensive account of the fascinating, multi-stranded story of design, from its earliest beginnings right up to the present day." It does indeed provide an overview of the entire history of design, from Paleolithic tools to the iPhone. (Christopher Dresser, "the father of industrial design", acts as a bridge between pre-modern and modern design.)

The Story Of Design's approach is similar to that of David Raizman's History Of Modern Design, though the Fiells' book is especially significant as its scope also extends to pre-industrial design. Like Raizman, the Fiells focus largely on American, European, and Japanese design, whereas the recent History Of Design (which begins in 1400) is more global in its coverage.

The Fiells previously co-wrote two A-Z design books for Taschen: Design Of The 20th Century and Industrial Design A-Z. The Story Of Design, with 500 pages and hundreds of large illustrations, is an excellent general introduction to design history. It has footnotes, though there's no bibliography.

16 December 2013

The Platter Cartoons

The Platter Cartoons
Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA, has obtained an injunction in Switzerland against Ole Andersen's book The Platter Cartoons. Blatter claimed that the book, which features a caricature of him called Platter, would damage his reputation. The court, in Zurich, granted a worldwide ban, and the cartoonist faces a fine of 10,000 francs if the book is published.

PDF

14 December 2013

Ten Great Films

Ten Great Films
Ten Great Films, by Stanley Kauffmann, is a short collection of essays on ten classics of world cinema. The book was published last year, and Kauffmann died earlier this year.

The Ten Great Films are as follows:

1. Battleship Potemkin
2. Way Down East
3. The Gold Rush
4. Grand Illusion
5. Rashomon
6. L'Avventura
7. Persona
8. 8½
9. Tokyo Story
10. Some Like It Hot

Two of Kauffmann's choices (Battleship Potemkin and Rashomon) are also on my Ten Essential Films list. (Note that Some Like It Hot is the 1959 Billy Wilder film, not the 1939 film of the same name.)

13 December 2013

Hatching Twitter

Hatching Twitter
Hatching Twitter, by New York Times columnist Nick Bilton, tells the story of Twitter's first seven years. It follows another book about a major internet company, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos & The Age Of Amazon by Brad Stone. Bilton has interviewed the company's founders - Evan Williams (who also founded Blogger), Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass - and current CEO Dick Costolo, though their quotes are not attributed and there's no index.

When describing key moments in the Twitter narrative, Bilton sets the scene by describing the weather, the locations, and even the clothes worn by the protagonists. At times, this feels too much like American Psycho, with Jack Dorsey as Patrick Bateman: "He slipped on his dark Earnest Sewn jeans, tucked in his crisp white Dior shirt, then rubbed gel into his hands and scuffed his hair to perfection." Such atmospherics aren't necessary, as the story itself has plenty of drama, with constant boardroom tensions between Twitter's co-founders.

Hatching Twitter's original subtitle was A True Story Of Money, Power, Friendship, & Betrayal. For the paperback edition, the subtitle was changed to How A Fledgling Start-Up Became A Multibillion-Dollar Business & Accidentally Changed The World.

The HobbitThe Desolation Of Smaug (Atmos)

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
The Desolation Of Smaug is the sequel to An Unexpected Journey, and the second in Peter Jackson's trilogy of films adapted from JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit. Jackson also directed the Lord Of The Rings trilogy (I, II, III), also based on novels by Tolkien.

Like An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation Of Smaug was filmed in 3D and HFR at 48fps. Whereas the first film began with a lengthy establishing sequence in Hobbiton, The Desolation Of Smaug is a more action-packed adventure, climaxing with Bilbo's confrontation of the dragon Smaug. There's also a brief appearance by Stephen Fry, who plays the Master of Laketown.

I saw the film in its Dolby Atmos version. Atmos can accommodate 128 distinct audio tracks, with sixty-four individual speakers positioned around the cinema (including in the ceiling). The effect, first used for Pixar's Brave last year, is designed to envelop the audience with sound from all directions. (Bangkok currently has two Atmos cinemas: screen 12 at SF World and screen 6 at Paragon Cineplex.)

The Desolation Of Smaug is screening in a bewildering array of different formats. The original format is HFR 3D (although the HFR version seemingly has a more limited release than that of the first Hobbit film), and it's also screening in 2D, 3D, 4DX, IMAX DMX, IMAX DMX 3D, and HFR IMAX DMX 3D versions.

The Hobbit
The Desolation Of Smaug (Atmos)

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
The Desolation Of Smaug is the sequel to An Unexpected Journey, and the second in Peter Jackson's trilogy of films adapted from JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit. Jackson also directed the Lord Of The Rings trilogy (I, II, III), also based on novels by Tolkien.

Like An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation Of Smaug was filmed in 3D and HFR at 48fps. Whereas the first film began with a lengthy establishing sequence in Hobbiton, The Desolation Of Smaug is a more action-packed adventure, climaxing with Bilbo's confrontation of the dragon Smaug. There's also a brief appearance by Stephen Fry, who plays the Master of Laketown.

I saw the film in its Dolby Atmos version. Atmos can accommodate 128 distinct audio tracks, with sixty-four individual speakers positioned around the cinema (including in the ceiling). The effect, first used for Pixar's Brave last year, is designed to envelop the audience with sound from all directions. (Bangkok currently has two Atmos cinemas: screen 12 at SF World and screen 6 at Paragon Cineplex.)

The Desolation Of Smaug is screening in a bewildering array of different formats. The original format is HFR 3D (although the HFR version seemingly has a more limited release than that of the first Hobbit film), and it's also screening in 2D, 3D, 4DX, IMAX DMX, IMAX DMX 3D, and HFR IMAX DMX 3D versions.

12 December 2013

Visual Project: Picasso

Visual Project: Picasso
Le Mystere Picasso
Picasso: Magic, Sex, & Death
TCDC in Bangkok is currently screening a mini season of Picasso documentaries, as part of its Visual Project series. (The series also featured three Woody Allen films in February.) The documentaries include Le Mystere Picasso (directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot) and Picasso: Magic, Sex, & Death (a Channel 4 programme directed by Christopher Bruce, written and presented by John Richardson).

Clouzot also directed the classic thriller Les Diaboliques. Richardson curated the Picasso: The Mediterranean Years exhibition, and his written extensively about Picasso's life and work. The Picasso documentaries will be shown at TCDC every day this month.

Visual Project: Picasso

Visual Project: Picasso
Le Mystere Picasso
Picasso: Magic, Sex, & Death
TCDC in Bangkok is currently screening a mini season of Picasso documentaries, as part of its Visual Project series. (The series also featured three Woody Allen films in February.) The documentaries include Le Mystere Picasso (directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot) and Picasso: Magic, Sex, & Death (a Channel 4 programme directed by Christopher Bruce, written and presented by John Richardson).

Clouzot also directed the classic thriller Les Diaboliques. Richardson curated the Picasso: The Mediterranean Years exhibition, and his written extensively about Picasso's life and work. The Picasso documentaries will be shown at TCDC every day this month.

11 December 2013

People's Democratic Reform Committee

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has announced that she will dissolve parliament, and has scheduled a general election for 2nd February next year. After her announcement, the opposition Democrat Party resigned en masse: all of their MPs quit parliament simultaneously, in a dramatic rejection of the democratic process.

Yingluck was responding to pressure from Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Democrat MP who has been leading street protests in Bangkok for the past month. A fortnight ago, Suthep invaded and occupied the Finance Ministry, in an attempt to destabilise the government. Four people were killed in clashes between students supporting Suthep and UDD members on their way to a pro-government rally. Police have used tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters who were attempting to break into various government buildings, though a temporary truce was called to mark the King's birthday on 5th December.

Suthep was formerly a Democrat MP, though he resigned in order to take his protest onto the streets. There's a bitter irony here, because when Suthep was Deputy Prime Minister in 2010, he and former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva ordered the army to use live ammunition against UDD protesters. (Abhisit and Suthep have both been charged with murder following the 2010 military massacre.) In fact, in 2010 Suthep said: "if they violate the laws, such as blocking roads and intruding into government offices, we will have to disperse the protesters." Now the tables have turned, and Suthep is leading his own protesters, using precisely the tactics that he condemned in 2010.

The protest started last month, when the government passed a bill that would have granted an amnesty to anyone charged with political offences since the 2006 coup. The amnesty, a blatant attempt to facilitate Thaksin Shinawatra's return to Thailand, was deeply unpopular with the public. (Thaksin has been living in self-imposed exile in Dubai since he was charged with corruption in 2008.)

Opposition to the amnesty briefly united both sides of Thailand's political divide. The red-shirts opposed it because it would have absolved Abhisit and Suthep of their responsibility for the 2010 massacre. The yellow-shirts were against it because it would have annulled Thaksin's corruption charge. Suthep began campaigning against the amnesty, and up to 100,000 people gathered at Democracy Monument to support him. (Democracy Monument was also the scene of a red-shirt protest in March 2010.)

Yingluck caved in to public opinion and did indeed drop the amnesty bill. It was also unanimously rejected by the Senate. However, Suthep did not stop his protest; in fact, he stepped up his campaign and called for the complete eradication of "the Thaksin regime". He has since led thousands of protesters in occupying several government ministries in Bangkok. Last Monday, his supporters marched to the offices of Thailand's terrestrial TV stations. Intimidated by the protesters, most channels broadcast a live speech by Suthep, in which he called for a national strike. (He made a similar appeal last month, though that was unsuccessful.)

The government's proposal to amend the constitution is another reason for the current protests. Under the 1997 constitution, widely regarded as Thailand's most democratic charter, the Senate became fully elected for the first time. However, after the coup, the new the 2007 constitution reverted to a partially appointed Senate. Yingluck had sought to amend article 117 of the constitution, and thus restore the fully elected Senate, however the Constitutional Court ruled that any such amendment was unlawful.

The Constitutional Court has a history of politically-motivated judgements. In 2006, it dissolved Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party though exonerated the Democrats of all charges. In 2008, it ordered Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to resign for the heinous crime of hosting a TV cookery show. Later that year, it dissolved the People Power Party in what has been called a judicial coup.

Suthep's goals, and his deadlines for achieving them, are both highly fluid. He sets a new deadline every few days, and when it passes he simply postpones it. He initially gave the government until 11th November to cancel the amnesty bill. (They didn't.) Then he declared that 1st December would be "Victory Day". (It wasn't.) He then issued a two-day deadline, for Yingluck to resign before 3rd December. (She didn't.) Then he announced that yesterday would be the "final battle" after which he would surrender to the police. (It wasn't, and he didn't.) At the weekend, he gave Yingluck another deadline of twenty-four hours to resign. (She didn't.) And he gave the police twelve hours to stop guarding Government House. (They didn't.)

Emboldened after the amnesty bill was cancelled, he has now demanded not only the resignation of the Prime Minister and the dissolution of parliament, but the establishment of an entirely new political system. He has formed a People's Democratic Reform Committee to govern the country instead of an elected parliament. He has also called for a royally-appointed prime minister, though the King has previously and unequivocally ruled this out. The PDRC's name is therefore somewhat ironic, as it is clearly undemocratic. (The People's Democratic Reform Committee sounds familiar: the organisers of the 2006 coup called themselves the Council for Democratic Reform...)

Suthep's concept of an appointed government is similar to the People's Alliance for Democracy's "new politics" policy, which called for a 70% appointed parliament and a royally-appointed prime minister. (The PAD is another undemocratic group with an ironic name.) Suthep's protest tactics (occupying ministries) also resemble the PAD's invasions of Government House and Suvarnabhumi airport in 2008. A warrant has been issued for Suthep's arrest, though there has been no attempt to detain him. Even if convicted, he is unlikely to face jail: the PAD leaders have still not been prosecuted, some five years after their brazen takeover of Suvarnabhumi.

Like the PAD, Suthep is doing his best to provoke the army into staging another coup, though army chief Prayut Chan-o-cha has so far managed to resist his natural impulses. Abuse of power was used as a justification for the 2006 coup against Thaksin, though corruption is endemic throughout Thai politics. In another irony, Suthep is campaigning against the corrupt Thaksin regime, yet Suthep also has a reputation for corruption: he illegally distributed farmland as Agriculture Minister in 1995, and he was disqualified as an MP in 2009 after violating the constitution.

In resigning as an MP and organising disruptive protests, Suthep has shown that he prefers mob rule to parliamentary democracy. (PDRC protesters carry whistles instead of the hand-clappers used in previous demonstrations, though in other respects they are following the PAD playbook.) Suthep and the PDRC represent only a minority of the electorate, as they consist largely of middle-class Bangkokians. They are vastly out-numbered by Thailand's rural poor, most of whom are pro-Thaksin.

Thaksin and his proxies have won every election since 2001. If a new election were called today, it's very likely that Yingluck would win again; that's why Suthep wants to replace elections with an appointed council. The Democrats have lost five elections in a row, but instead of reforming their party to make it more electable, they prefer to blame the democratic system itself. Unable to accept Thaksin's popularity with the electorate, his opponents consistently resort to undemocratic alternatives. Hopefully the election will go ahead as scheduled next year, though if the Democrats boycott it (as they did in 2006) they may trigger another judicial or military intervention.

People's Democratic Reform Committee

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has announced that she will dissolve parliament, and has scheduled a general election for 2nd February next year. After her announcement, the opposition Democrat Party resigned en masse: all of their MPs quit parliament simultaneously, in a dramatic rejection of the democratic process.

Yingluck was responding to pressure from Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Democrat MP who has been leading street protests in Bangkok for the past month. A fortnight ago, Suthep invaded and occupied the Finance Ministry, in an attempt to destabilise the government. Four people were killed in clashes between students supporting Suthep and UDD members on their way to a pro-government rally. Police have used tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters who were attempting to break into various government buildings, though a temporary truce was called to mark the King's birthday on 5th December.

Suthep was formerly a Democrat MP, though he resigned in order to take his protest onto the streets. There's a bitter irony here, because when Suthep was Deputy Prime Minister in 2010, he and former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva ordered the army to use live ammunition against UDD protesters. (Abhisit and Suthep have both been charged with murder following the 2010 military massacre.) In fact, in 2010 Suthep said: "if they violate the laws, such as blocking roads and intruding into government offices, we will have to disperse the protesters." Now the tables have turned, and Suthep is leading his own protesters, using precisely the tactics that he condemned in 2010.

The protest started last month, when the government passed a bill that would have granted an amnesty to anyone charged with political offences since the 2006 coup. The amnesty, a blatant attempt to facilitate Thaksin Shinawatra's return to Thailand, was deeply unpopular with the public. (Thaksin has been living in self-imposed exile in Dubai since he was charged with corruption in 2008.)

Opposition to the amnesty briefly united both sides of Thailand's political divide. The red-shirts opposed it because it would have absolved Abhisit and Suthep of their responsibility for the 2010 massacre. The yellow-shirts were against it because it would have annulled Thaksin's corruption charge. Suthep began campaigning against the amnesty, and up to 100,000 people gathered at Democracy Monument to support him. (Democracy Monument was also the scene of a red-shirt protest in March 2010.)

Yingluck caved in to public opinion and did indeed drop the amnesty bill. It was also unanimously rejected by the Senate. However, Suthep did not stop his protest; in fact, he stepped up his campaign and called for the complete eradication of "the Thaksin regime". He has since led thousands of protesters in occupying several government ministries in Bangkok. Last Monday, his supporters marched to the offices of Thailand's terrestrial TV stations. Intimidated by the protesters, most channels broadcast a live speech by Suthep, in which he called for a national strike. (He made a similar appeal last month, though that was unsuccessful.)

The government's proposal to amend the constitution is another reason for the current protests. Under the 1997 constitution, widely regarded as Thailand's most democratic charter, the Senate became fully elected for the first time. However, after the coup, the new the 2007 constitution reverted to a partially appointed Senate. Yingluck had sought to amend article 117 of the constitution, and thus restore the fully elected Senate, however the Constitutional Court ruled that any such amendment was unlawful.

The Constitutional Court has a history of politically-motivated judgements. In 2006, it dissolved Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party though exonerated the Democrats of all charges. In 2008, it ordered Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to resign for the heinous crime of hosting a TV cookery show. Later that year, it dissolved the People Power Party in what has been called a judicial coup.

Suthep's goals, and his deadlines for achieving them, are both highly fluid. He sets a new deadline every few days, and when it passes he simply postpones it. He initially gave the government until 11th November to cancel the amnesty bill. (They didn't.) Then he declared that 1st December would be "Victory Day". (It wasn't.) He then issued a two-day deadline, for Yingluck to resign before 3rd December. (She didn't.) Then he announced that yesterday would be the "final battle" after which he would surrender to the police. (It wasn't, and he didn't.) At the weekend, he gave Yingluck another deadline of twenty-four hours to resign. (She didn't.) And he gave the police twelve hours to stop guarding Government House. (They didn't.)

Emboldened after the amnesty bill was cancelled, he has now demanded not only the resignation of the Prime Minister and the dissolution of parliament, but the establishment of an entirely new political system. He has formed a People's Democratic Reform Committee to govern the country instead of an elected parliament. He has also called for a royally-appointed prime minister, though the King has previously and unequivocally ruled this out. The PDRC's name is therefore somewhat ironic, as it is clearly undemocratic. (The People's Democratic Reform Committee sounds familiar: the organisers of the 2006 coup called themselves the Council for Democratic Reform...)

Suthep's concept of an appointed government is similar to the People's Alliance for Democracy's "new politics" policy, which called for a 70% appointed parliament and a royally-appointed prime minister. (The PAD is another undemocratic group with an ironic name.) Suthep's protest tactics (occupying ministries) also resemble the PAD's invasions of Government House and Suvarnabhumi airport in 2008. A warrant has been issued for Suthep's arrest, though there has been no attempt to detain him. Even if convicted, he is unlikely to face jail: the PAD leaders have still not been prosecuted, some five years after their brazen takeover of Suvarnabhumi.

Like the PAD, Suthep is doing his best to provoke the army into staging another coup, though army chief Prayut Chan-o-cha has so far managed to resist his natural impulses. Abuse of power was used as a justification for the 2006 coup against Thaksin, though corruption is endemic throughout Thai politics. In another irony, Suthep is campaigning against the corrupt Thaksin regime, yet Suthep also has a reputation for corruption: he illegally distributed farmland as Agriculture Minister in 1995, and he was disqualified as an MP in 2009 after violating the constitution.

In resigning as an MP and organising disruptive protests, Suthep has shown that he prefers mob rule to parliamentary democracy. (PDRC protesters carry whistles instead of the hand-clappers used in previous demonstrations, though in other respects they are following the PAD playbook.) Suthep and the PDRC represent only a minority of the electorate, as they consist largely of middle-class Bangkokians. They are vastly out-numbered by Thailand's rural poor, most of whom are pro-Thaksin.

Thaksin and his proxies have won every election since 2001. If a new election were called today, it's very likely that Yingluck would win again; that's why Suthep wants to replace elections with an appointed council. The Democrats have lost five elections in a row, but instead of reforming their party to make it more electable, they prefer to blame the democratic system itself. Unable to accept Thaksin's popularity with the electorate, his opponents consistently resort to undemocratic alternatives. Hopefully the election will go ahead as scheduled next year, though if the Democrats boycott it (as they did in 2006) they may trigger another judicial or military intervention.

10 December 2013

Censor Must Die

Censor Must Die
Ing K's documentary Censor Must Die will be screened at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya tomorrow. The film follows Ing and Manit Sriwanichpoom as they appeal against the ban imposed on Shakespeare Must Die, their adaptation of Macbeth.

Censor Must Die was premiered at the Freedom On Film seminar in June. Since then, it's been screened at Silpakorn University's Nakhon Pathom campus in August and at the members-only Friese-Greene Club in Bangkok last month.

Censor Must Die

Censor Must Die
Ing K's documentary Censor Must Die will be screened at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya tomorrow. The film follows Ing and Manit Sriwanichpoom as they appeal against the ban imposed on Shakespeare Must Die, their adaptation of Macbeth.

Censor Must Die was premiered at the Freedom On Film seminar in June. Since then, it's been screened at Silpakorn University's Nakhon Pathom campus in August and at the members-only Friese-Greene Club in Bangkok last month.

07 December 2013

The Big Screen

The Big Screen
There are many histories of the cinema (and I've read plenty of them), though few are as passionate or as thoughtful as The Big Screen: The Story Of The Movies. David Thomson calls it "a love letter to a lost love, I suppose. It has the semblance of being a history, but it might be some kind of novel". Thomson's elegant prose style, and the presence of his narrative voice, certainly feel novelistic, in contrast to conventional, dry reference books on the same subject.

I'm quite a late convert to the works of David Thomson. I've honestly never understood the acclaim for his Biographical Dictionary Of Film, though I really admire The Moment Of Psycho, Have You Seen...?, Moments That Made The Movies, and The Big Screen. (In the UK, the book's subtitle has been extended to The Story Of The Movies & What They Did To Us.)

The Big Screen is a history of film as art and entertainment, though it's also a history of 'the movies' as an experience, as images viewed on a screen. This extends to the small screen, and the portable screens that we now use to consume digital media: from "Muybridge to Facebook". It's selective rather than all-encompassing, though its celebration of classical Hollywood filmmaking is as escapist as cinema itself.

06 December 2013

Makers

Makers
Makers: The Next Industrial Revolution is Chris Anderson's guide to the 'next big thing' in technology: 3D printing, otherwise known as additive manufacturing. Anderson is a former editor of Wired, and now runs companies that design and manufacture drones (another potential 'next big thing').

Like his first book The Long Tale, Makers began as a Wired magazine article; in this case, it was In The Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are The New Bits (published in 2010). The shift from physical atoms to digital bits has been Anderson's central thesis for more than a decade, forming the basis of each of his books, though it was first developed by his Wired colleague Nicholas Negroponte.

Like The New Digital Age, Makers is a techno-utopian book, envisioning a "Third Industrial Revolution" in which 3D printing will allow each of us to design and create consumer products in our own homes. (Peter Marsh also discusses this possibility, in his book The New Industrial Revolution.) Makers develops Anderson's 'long tail' concept and applies it to physical products: "The Internet democratized publishing, broadcasting, and communications, and the consequence was... the Long Tail of bits. Now the same is happening to manufacturing - the Long Tail of things."

Difficult Men

Difficult Men
Difficult Men, by Brett Martin, is an account of the recent open-ended drama series about morally ambiguous male protagonists on American cable television. Martin interviews the creators of The Sopranos (David Chase), The Wire (David Simon and Ed Burns), Six Feet Under (Alan Ball), Deadwood (David Milch), and others, celebrating what he describes as the "Third Golden Age" of American television.

Whereas Hollywood focused on franchises, remakes, and superheroes, HBO and other cable channels produced sophisticated, character-based, and adult-oriented dramas. Significantly, Martin Scorsese directed the pilot episode of Boadwalk Empire for HBO, an example of creative crossover from film to television.

The touchstone for this trend was The Sopranos, the HBO series inspired by GoodFellas, and its success helped make cable TV drama "the signature American art form of the first decade of the twenty-first century". Difficult Men's subtitle is Behind The Scenes Of A Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos & The Wire To Mad Men & Breaking Bad. For the UK edition, the subtitle was reversed.

05 December 2013

The New Digital Age

The New Digital Age
The New Digital Age: Reshaping The Future Of People, Nations, & Business was written jointly by Eric Schmidt (former Google CEO) and Jared Cohen (director of Google Ideas), which explains why it has blurbs by Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Henry Kissinger, and Walter Isaacson. Schmidt and Cohen first collaborated in 2010, co-writing an essay (The Digital Disruption) for the journal Foreign Affairs.

Our Future Selves, the first chapter of The New Digital Age, describes a future world in which our lifestyles are enhanced by developments in personal technology such as self-driving cars (a Google X project) and other conveniences. The remainder of the book focuses on geo-political issues: "in order to understand the future of politics, business, diplomacy and other important sectors, one must understand how technology is driving major changes in those areas."

Unsurprisingly, as the authors are both Google executives, this is a techno-utopian vision: "The case for optimism lies not in sci-fi gadgets or holograms but in the check that technology and connectivity bring against abuses, suffering and destruction in our world... Anyone passionate about economic prosperity, human rights, social justice, education or self-determination should consider how connectivity can help us reach these goals and even move beyond them."

The book's main theme is the vast potential of the internet to affect global change: "We believe that modern technology platforms, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, are even more powerful than most people realize, and our future world will be profoundly altered by their adoption and successfulness in societies everywhere." As such, it's an update of the "atoms to bits" argument proposed by Nicholas Negroponte in Being Digital. (Tim Wu's The Master Switch is a more cautionary analysis of the digital age.)

Play It Again

Play It Again
Play It Again: An Amateur Against The Impossible is Alan Rusbridger's journal, from August 2010 to December 2011, of his attempt at learning to play Chopin's Ballade #1 on the piano. The book's title, of course, is a famous misquote from Casablanca: Ilsa says, "Play it, Sam. Play As Time Goes By"; Rick says, "If she can stand it, I can. Play it". Other examples include Woody Allen's film Play It Again, Sam (and the headline Play It Again, Siam!).

Rusbridger is the editor of The Guardian, and his account of his piano lessons is interspersed with his reactions to the major news events of the period, including the investigation by Nick Davies (author of Flat Earth News) into News International's phone-hacking. Here's his reaction to Rupert Murdoch's decision to close the News Of The World: "It's a hold-the-front-page, stop-the-presses, stop-the-clocks, stop-everything scoop. The history of newspapers has just been rewritten."

The eighteen months that he covers also include his negotiations with Julian Assange on the publication of the WikiLeaks cables (also discussed in Page One, to which Rusbridger contributed). Phone-hacking and WikiLeaks (and this year's Edward Snowden story) are some of The Guardian's biggest-ever scoops, and I'd rather read about Rusbridger the editor than Rusbridger the pianist. At the end of one chapter, he writes: "But enough piano talk for now. Tomorrow we publish the biggest leak of state secrets in history", and I couldn't agree more.

03 December 2013

The Worldwide History Of Beads

The Worldwide History Of Beads
Lois Sherr Dubin's book The History Of Beads has been expanded and updated with a new title, The Worldwide History Of Beads: Ancient, Ethnic, Contemporary. Based on new research, this second edition dates the history of beads to circa 100,000 years BC, indicating that the human capacity for symbolism and decoration originated more than 50,000 years before the first examples of figurative art (the Chauvet cave and the Venus of Hohle Fels). The book is published in America with the alternative title The History Of Beads: From 100,000 BC To The Present.

02 December 2013

History Of Design

History Of Design
History Of Design: Decorative Arts & Material Culture 1400-2000, edited by Pat Kirkham and Susan Weber, is an international history of the decorative arts, organised chronologically and geographically, with individual chapters on each continent. The book itself is superbly designed, and illustrated with more than 700 large and carefully-selected photographs.

The scope of the book is unprecedented: it's a definitive global survey of the decorative arts. The co-editors both explain that it was intended as the first comprehensive history: Kirkham laments the "lack of a broadly based "textbook" or "survey book" on the model of those in other educational fields", and Weber cites "Janson's History of Art" as an inspiration. Given its worldwide coverage, John Fleming and Hugh Honour's A World History Of Art might be an even better comparison.

Fleming and Honour's Dictionary Of Decorative Arts is equally extensive, though it hasn't been updated since 1989, and it has an encyclopedic structure rather than a chronological narrative. David Raizman's History Of Modern Design is slightly less comprehensive: it covers America, Europe, and Japan from the 18th century onwards. Judith Miller's Decorative Arts is a buyer's guide rather than a historical survey. Owen Jones's The Grammar Of Ornament and Stuart Durant's Ornament cover the history of, respectively, pre- and post-industrial ornamentation. Decorative Arts, Taschen's reprint of Carl Becker's Kunstewerke & Gerathschaften, illustrates decorative objects from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

History Of Design is the most wide-ranging survey in its field, though there are other histories of individual disciplines within the applied arts. These include 5,000 Years Of Glass and 7,000 Years Of Jewellery by Hugh Tait, 5,000 Years Of Textiles by Jennifer Harris, 5,000 Years Of Tiles by Hans van Lemmen, Tiles: A General History by Anne Berendsen, 10,000 Years Of Pottery by Emmanuel Cooper, The Book Of Pottery & Porcelain by Warren E Cox, Porcelain and Glass by Edward Dillon, A History Of Tapestry by WG Thomson, Tapestry by Barty Phillips, A History Of Interior Design by John Pile, World Furniture by Helena Hayward, The Papered Wall by Lesley Hoskins, Jewellery by H Clifford Smith, The Worldwide History Of Beads by Lois Sherr Dubin, A History Of Industrial Design by Edward Lucie-Smith, and A History Of Graphic Design by Philip B Meggs.