You'd have to be brain dead not to pick up on how shallow, uninspiring and generally shit this presentation is between China Youthology and Ypulse. They're still obsessed with the word mashup when it's been embarrassingly unhip since the donkey mated with a horse creating the ass. You can have a quick flip through but the most stunning contradictions are the assertion that chinese youth (or is it just girls) are both materialistic and shallow (an aspirational life slide 7), feeling defeated and insecure (slide 10) as well as evolving from surface to substance (slide 34).
China is huge, this is a tier one or two city surface report that could be culled from the web and while I know what they are trying to say they need to drop the mashup "it's groovy" speakeasy vibe, the superficial analysis and get down to the hard work of explaining those contradictions. Instead they'll use this to sell in to the multinationals who are looking for safe but edgy but safe generic catalog communications. ChinaSMACK is where it's at if you want to see where the dynamite is.
My feedburner statistics are fluctuating wildly over the last week or so. For example today I seem to have about 400 less of you than normal. It seems to want to return to normal but then drops back down again. Anyone else noticed anything. The only thing I can think of is Java script is playing with the statistics but I've always had a bit of Java action going on in the templates and also post from time to time.
I was clicking around as usual on the net recently and noticed a new bar/restaurant/gallery in town called WTF (Wonderful Thai Friendship). No shit, but I felt an immediate sharp stab of cold creative jealousy that I hadn't realised what an insanely great name our internet acronym could be till someone else had snapped it up.
Anway WTF is the new hip hangout in town on Sukhumvit 51, Alley 7. I knew it was gathering steam when I was invited to join their Facebook group by P Tik who I interviewed earlier at WTF but ran over the 10 minutes that Youtube permits. I'll be splitting that later to post up here too.
As ever with these things, I also learned that I knew Som & Chris the owners of WTF and was really delighted to find that the art was good and provocative so I took advantage of the opportunity to interview Som about their new anti-establishment with a video installation in the background that was made by Jim Brewer on the topic of Yellow in Thailand. I was aware of his idea because I know Jim and he shared it with me some time back as out of nowhere (sort of), the wearing of yellow in support of his Majesty became ubiquitous every Monday. I explained it all back here in 2007 with what seems like a slightly prescient post though it isn't rocket science if you think about it.
Anyway this gusto for the colour diminished somewhat as over time the colour polarization of politics in Thailand became very sensitive with the now widely understood association of Red for the rural impoverished classes.
The recording is a crap unfortunately because first I'm rubbish at thinking about sound, and as it's an art gallery on the 2nd and 3rd floor, it echoes too much to hear my questions so turn down the base and play with the treble if you can. I hope though that you can pickup Som sharing her new tapas, bar and art gallery concept and also talking a little bit about art in Bangkok and specifically Jim's work which is going on the background. Most interesting was the revelation that Yellow trainers were banned in Thailand as the feet are considered the most lowly part of the body to associate with anything let alone anything Royal.
She also talks about the stiff reaction that many of her Thai gallery visitors had about the video installation and their demands to know which farang (Westerner) artist was responsible for it. Anyway WTF is the kind of place that supports art as stimulus to discussion and is to be applauded loudly and embraced heartily for that alone, though the owners, clientèle I met, (Hi Andrew that was mad, call you soon) bar and tapas menu are enough reason to go and check them out.
Unless you wish to avoid me in which case that's all very understandable.
Many of my readers in Thailand need to use a VPN to get around this image, you may also want to subscribe over here for the period while my blogging is censored as I'm piping my feeds to lots of unexpected places using a lot of digital backflips one of which I've filmed for you guys on the 10th floor of Communications Authority Tower, on 72 Charoenkrung Road, Bangrak. It was taken in the Andaman sea where we did the usual things like throw a ton of money into the Thai economy hiring a Yacht and then sailing around for a few days,
This is my first podcast so it's not only very very short, I'm not confident that I'm going to get the iTunes RSS feed up and running first time. In principle most of the spade work is done by Blogger but either it will embed, be downloadable or something. Let's see what happens below.
I went for a walk around the park this morning and had a thought. Just one thought mind you, and realised I had that James Bond Mobile on me so I used the voice recorder on it to capture my thought. Later on I realised a blip in my head took a minute or so to explain and if there's anything that is both my advantage and my disadvantage it's this stream of thoughts that are constantly squeezing through what I assume is a very narrow pipe with some caching between immediate processing and pending processing.
You've all given me a fabulous laugh as 64% of you voted Young lady B from Hong Kong as being a fella. Well done gang. And for dessert I should add that the young post operative transsexual Lovely Lady B, picked me up, and despite years of living here I had no idea. To add insult to injury I remember as it became clear that she like me a lot that, uncharacteristically for me in public, I was quite tactile in the swish bars I took her to and I distinctly remember explaining to her that she was extraordinarily 'sporty'. As in fit as a fiddle. You have to laugh don't you?
Incidentally though if I were to be asked who was more feminine. As in graceful, elegant, well mannered and just all round pleasant to be with it was the lady born as a boy. There's another two posts I want to do about this subject as I learned so much about gender identity from this country that it gives me an a lot of additional dimensions to think about when I listen to Women talking about make-up or Guys and football in groups and depth interviews. It's all good though (You can put the missus' shampoo brand down now lads)
The definition of a coincidence is you weren't paying attention the first time round.
Here he is below taking his prize from Tim Burton. Photo Courtesy of the New York Times. The same paper interrupted while interviewing Seh Daeng as a sniper blew out his brains in front of the Dusit Thani luxury hotel.
Check out his other movie "Tropical Malady" if the Joycian style is tough for you. Otherwise just feel it. Thinking is superfluous.
Strangely enough the weather was almost unbearably hot in the lead up to May 19th crackdown and then suddenly we had two of the biggest tropical storms straight after. I caught this little tyke chilling out in the 7-Eleven chiller fridge and I saw the seeds of a lovely print ad in it.
Right. It's all been so depressing lately observing/listening to the political echo chamber on Facebook whining on about property instead of lost lives, that I think I need a change of topic. So can you do me a favour please and vote using your utmost skill and judgement.
Which one is the ladyboy? (If enough of you vote I'll share an amusing story about what actually happened)
Yesterday the Red Protesters surrendered the battle in order to prevent further bloodshed. It was a brave move to make. Bravery is usually associated with taking a bullet but I think they did the right thing. Nobody believes that Thailand is the same country today as two months ago and if the battle for Bangkok was lost then the war against social inequality is surely entering a new phase and more importantly the Grenjai I've openly railed against for a decade now will not be an excuse for ensuring the piss poor continue to be seen but not heard.
The power went out in my apartment yesterday afternoon as a substation was set ablaze, and even though I've been very good at avoiding confrontation since the coup d'etat in 2006 I ended up taking a bike ride around the war zone and had one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I made it past a riot mob on Rama IV who were local Bangkokians venting their anger at a culture that gives them no chances for development and took it out on a Bank and any symbols of officialdom and wealth. I circumvented the razor wire road blocks (The KLEIN is the only bike to have in these circumstances as I can pick it up with one hand) and at times was the only person I could sense, right there, slap bang in the middle of a city of 10 million plus.
First thing this morning as the curfew lifted at 6am I took the KLEIN out again and repeated much of my journey but filmed it this time for you. I'm the only one on a bike taking in the whole panorama on film so I think this content is a bit unique even though it doesn't really convey all of what I saw yesterday. I'm glad it's over for the time being and I hope his Majesty concurs with a foreigners view that an amnesty for the Red prisoners has merit as they are just a small segment of a majority of the population who aren't happy with a social inequality that seemingly only the uneducated are privy to.
I almost think this ad is so good partly because nobody outside the UK will understand it. In any case I keep going back to it so I think it deserves another plug. Well done W&K London who made this ad and also because they recently snapped up Rob as regional Planning Kahuna for their Shanghai office (and well done Rob too).
I've been coming to Thailand since I was 23 years old and have never felt happier than when the chicken is grilling on the roadside and I'm able to shoot the breeze a little with the locals. I speak reasonably good Thai and generally know when I'm the subject of conversation in Khmer or Laos though sadly the thing that impresses any of them most is my ability to chow down on the really adventurous food that takes years if not decades to get into.
In all the time I've been here there's only one person I've come across who had any appetite for talking about social inequality. I think I've had some exposure to all the classes, ethnic groups, business people both local and international and the impact of the massive tourism business not to mention the amazing cuisine, the girls, the transsexuals, minor royalty, cops, villains, army, politicians, sports and pop stars. It's never left me that the propensity for the underprivileged to be so unambitious is only matched by the propensity for the privileged to have so little ambition for the underprivileged.
And so I've left it there because generally the nasty after taste of all that can easily be translated into a myopic xenophobia for all other ethnic groups including Caucasians who are easy pickings when feelings of domestic superiority are aroused.
All that has changed.
Just because all fluffy kittens are nice doesn't mean that all things nice must be fluffy kittens. By that I mean just because a group of people have a justifiable grievance, doesn't mean I'm all for what they are all for. I don't have any time for the Thai media who never speak truth to power and simply echo the prevailing ruling elite's sentiment without question. So I'll try and paint a quick picture of Thai politics if that's at all possible.
Pretty much all politicians are on the make. We had Khun Chuan a few years back, who not unlike our John Major was a quiet and untainted modest politician. Apart from him, all of them are first class weasels who put self interest before their people and their country while all the time proclaiming love for their King, while showing very little application of that love.
There's not much to say about the King without sounding like the sycophants who invoke his name despite never having read any history whatsoever, or even ever trying to apply his sufficiency economy philosophy. Actually nobody talks about it. It's enough to say I heart New York because why would any body question that simple expression of sentiment?
Suffice to say that at the beginning of the decade or thereabouts Thaksin Shinawatra became Prime Minister and I remember my girlfriend of that time cried as his electoral success became apparent.
Groundless or melodramatic tears I thought at the time, but now I see what's going on it's somewhat clearer. Anyway, vote buying is standard political strategy. It works in the Western world over taxation and it works here. Thaksin's genius was to do it in a new way and by pumping money into the rural areas he secured the hearts and minds of these people like never before and more importantly their relatively inexpensive votes.
He then went on to amass as large a personal fortune as he could until the ruling elite could take it no longer and locked him out on a foreign visit through a military coup. We all rejoiced over that. The three thousand extra judicial killings in 2003, the vote buying, the stranglehold on the free media which at times is just as silencing as the lese majeste rules for the royal household (and allegedly the Privy Council I read only today).
And then it became apparent that our initial euphoria was misjudged because the hearts and minds (and votes) of all the more impoverished people in the Kingdom had been brushed aside like their hopes and aspirations are always brushed aside by the ruling elite and our hypocrisy was staring us in the face. The ugly truth is that the wishes of the majority are the foundation principles of democracy.
This narrative was quickly reduced to reds versus yellows or Mustard versus Ketchup as Nick memorably described it in Hong Kong. Yellow for Royalists and Reds for Thaksinomics.
This may have served as a useful mnemonic in the beginning but it was always the case that red can be yellow but yellow can never be red which may be confusing but serves as a useful reminder of deity worship versus day to day self interest. They're different things unless they're the same thing.
I feel I'm veering off into known unknowns territory so I'll attempt to wrap this up by throwing in another example of the gap that dare not speak its name. I've mentioned the social inequality gap and I believe that if ever the Kingdom is going to right itself there needs to be a grown up discussion about why there is so little ambition for the poor. Why public transport and infrastructure to the rural regions never gets a mention. Why schools that teach history and geography are evidently absent on a massive scale.
But one last example has been brought home to me time and again in advertising and the focus groups where I get to hear female office hierarchy talk openly behind one way mirrors about who to to lunch with based on where they come from. This is just one picture that the Thai advertiser likes to think portrays the average person in Thailand.
And this is the colour and bone structure of the remaining 95% of the population.
Can you see why they protest? You ignore their electoral wishes. They are marginalized, put through shitty schools, given no opportunities, have a health system that only Thaksin ever tried to improve, work on the streets where even the endless broken pavements are alien to you. You look down upon them, see them as the minority when it is you who are outnumbered. You parody their simple ways in the soap operas and finally try to sell them skin whitening cream if they ever aspire to a metropolitan lifestyle.
They may be the unwashed masses and frankly many of them have tried to cut my own throat when given a chance for a few dollars but that's because they've never had the chances that you and I had. They don't have a Facebook group, they are grubby, they lost thirty five lives so far against an entire army and yet they are the soil of your country.