Tuesday, September 24, 2013

http://www.balidiscovery.com/messages/message.asp?ID=9826

An Open Letter to Governor Pastika
Bali Update Editor, John Daniels, Writes Bali’s Governor on Behalf of Bali’s Dogs and BAWA


(9/23/2013)


Dear Governor Pastika:

First of all, forgive this intrusion on your crowded schedule in the lead up to the APEC Summit.

But I feel compelled to write in order to call to appeal your assistance in an unfortunate developing situation that I believe is within your power to remedy.

Over the past days, animal welfare authorities in Gianyar have ordered the closure of the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA), citing a number of licensing and registration violations by the BAWA Animal Clinic in Lod Tunduh, near Ubud.

Given a deadline of only days to prepare licenses that require weeks of detailed preparation and processing, the workers and volunteers now face the inevitable closure of their animal clinic and the resulting dilemma of how to find homes for the nearly one-hundred animals now under BAWA’s care.

Since its establishment nearly a decade ago, BAWA has made tremendous strides in improving the lot of Bali’s dogs and other pets. It has launched educational programs in local communities and schools; provided free clinics for pets; established a 24-hour animal ambulance service; created an effective adoption program for stray or unwanted animals; and played a front-line role in the critically important battle against rabies now underway in Bali.

Fiercely committed to animal welfare and impatient with the enormity of the task at hand, BAWA and its supporters have sometimes been guilty of over-zealousness, trampling on a the feelings of some members of the community along the way. Despite any missteps BAWA may have committed, the overwhelming evidence remains that Bali is a much better place today because of BAWA’s untiring devotion the island’s pet population.

In the process of educating the people of Bali on the plight of its street dogs BAWA has also happily learned of the strong support of the Balinese community for their work. Many Balinese doctors and community members work as volunteers; make donations; and participate in rounding up street dogs for vaccination, sterilization and medical care. Along the way, the Balinese volunteers at BAWA have shared the epic Mahabrata story,known to every Balinese child, of Yudistira whose kind manner was capable of taming even the wildest animal.

This deeply ingrained Bali-Hindu deference to all living creatures, is also embodied in the blessing for animals sought from the Almighty each Tumpek Kadang day. A shared sense of kindness to animals is part of the spirit that motivates BAWA’s ambulance workers who responds at any hour of the day and night when called to assist a sick animal or a dog injured on the Island’s busy roads.

Bali's reputation as a world renowned tourist destination has been aided by BAWA's work. Tourist visitors to Bali are relieved to know that injured animals encountered while touring the island are urgently cared for by the workers and volunteers of BAWA.

Such good work on behalf of Bali and its animals are now at risk of coming to an endwith the coming closure of BAWA.

Dear Bapak Pastika, because of your personal background as a top law enforcement officer in Indonesia you know that there are always two options available when faced by those who have made mistakes and failed to follow the law. Those choices are: strict enforcement of the letter of the law or alternatively educating and counseling the public to follow the law and eliminate future errors.

Given adequate time and guidance from animal welfare officials, I feel you can be certain that BAWA would spare no effort to comply with all existing rules and regulations in order that they continue with their important work. If you could mediate the needed additional time for BAWA to work with officials to put its documents in order, not only would Bali retain this valuable community asset but BAWA would be able to forge a more positive working relationship with the Island’s officials in the future.

As the clock ticks down on BAWA’s continued existence, your intervention is urgently needed to see that the work of this outstanding community organization is allowed to continue without compromising any existing rules and regulations.

On behalf of the wagging tails and cold noses seeking everyone's care and consideration, permit me to thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

Related Links

BAWA Facebook Page

BAWA Website

Related Articles

A Tail Most Sad

Howling at the Moon

Barking Up the Wrong Tree


Thursday, April 04, 2013

Abhisit Fights Back on Thai Constitution

Abhisit Strikes Back with Flowers

Abhisit is back and he has a point. Why do new governments in Thailand always want to insert a completely new constitution? It's a ridulous tradition that fouls up political process for years.

Abhisit strikes back

Published: 5 Apr 2013 via Bangkok Post

I am disappointed that your editorial on Wednesday misrepresented my position regarding the issue of amending the constitution and failed to study the details of the current proposed amendments. My position for this matter has never wavered. I did say that the constitution should be amended and, during my administration, we passed two amendments in line with the recommendations of an all-party committee set up by the then parliament president.

Regarding my support for the election of senators, I have always insisted that this must come with a review of the power of the Senate. If we wanted a politically neutral Senate, we have to think about how not to fall into the same trap that we did during Thaksin Shinawatra's time in power. What's unacceptable with the current proposal is that it removes term limits and does not stipulate an electoral system (both stipulated in the 1997 constitution), which helps reduce interference by political parties and provincial powers.

Concerning the disbanding of political parties, while I agree that parties should not be disbanded because of electoral fraud, my stance has always been that executives and members of executive boards should take responsibility for any illegal actions that they are party to, or aware of, but fail to prevent. This is not what the current proposal seeks to do. Worse, it then goes on to remove the rights of individuals to take political parties whose actions undermine the constitution to the Constitution Court.

As for Article 190, we never supported going back to the pre-2007 charter where major international agreements on economic and trade need not be deliberated in parliament.

So please check your facts, look at previous parliamentary studies and expose the people who have truly been inconsistent and are now distorting the all-party recommendations. As leader of the Democrat Party, I can assure you that we have performed our duties during the past three days in parliament with the nation's interest at heart.

ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA
Leader of the Opposition

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tilt Shift Video on Bangkok

This blog is on an extended fresh breath of air, but how could I resist this wonderful little tilt-shift look at Bangkok? With perfect music. You'll need to copy and paste since I seem to have temporarily lost my mind and can't remember how to embed links properly. Clear out the cobwebs Carl!

http://vimeo.com/17942063

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lightning Strikes in Chicago

Lightning strikes three of the tallest buildings in Chicago at the same time! from Craig Shimala on Vimeo.


More from after the storm. The sequel to the Triple Lightning Strike from Craig Shimala on Vimeo.

The first part is random strikes I happened to capture on the same night as the triple strike on Willis Tower, Trump International Hotel and Tower and the John Hancock Building (http://vimeo.com/12816548). In the second clip you can kinda hear my neighbors on their balcony yelling after Willis Tower is struck with a giant rainbow in the background.

1:19 - Is a sped up scene of a giant rainbow forming over the Chicago skyline.

1:46 - Is the original triple lightning strike video in a 30 second block for those that were questioning it's authenticity. I could have shown more but watching paint dry would be more interesting. If you listen closely, you can hear me lightly say "yes!" after the triple strike happens. You can also notice a slight movement in the camera. This was me putting my hand on the camera to stop recording as nothing was happening. That would've sucked to miss out on this by a second.

HD Video was filmed on a Canon EOS 7D. Edited in Sony Vegas Movie Studio.

Music: The xx (http://www.myspace.com/thexx) - Intro


Craig Shimala shot an amazing slow motion video of lightning striking three of the tallest buildings in Chicago at the same time, the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), the Trump International Hotel and Tower and the John Hancock Center.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Marina Bay Sands Singapore





World Architecture News reports on the first of several casinos to soon be opening in Singapore.

Marina Bay Sands opens long-awaited SkyPark in flamboyant two-day ceremony

This Thursday saw part of Singapore’s newest mixed use development opened to the public in an extravagant ceremony across one of the world’s largest observation decks. Whilst the world must wait until later in the year for the completed building, the SkyPark, Event Plaza, shops, dining options and many nightlife offerings on the complex are now fully functional. Marina Bay Sands is a magnificent construction – a S$8bn development including a 2,560-room hotel, 120,000 sq m convention centre, The Shoppes mall, six restaurants, an Art and Science museum, two Sands Theatres, two floating pavilions and an 'atrium style' casino with 500 tables and 1,600 slot machines. The complex will be opened in 3-4 stages, with full completion on course for late 2010. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the project’s developer Las Vegas Sands Corp, Mr. Sheldon G. Adelson, said: “The opening of the Sands SkyPark signifies an important milestone for Marina Bay Sands. This has been the single, most challenging engineering component of our unique integrated resort and to see it materialise is an incredibly proud moment for us. Marina Bay Sands along with its signature Sands SkyPark will be a truly impressive icon and we are excited to present this bold architecture to not only Singapore but to the rest of the world.”

Situated on Bayfront Avenue, across the water from Singapore's Central Business District, no expense has been spared in this luxurious design, where world-class dining will be supplied by Singaporean celebrity chef Justin Quek’s newest restaurant, Sky 57, and customers can gamble to their heart's content in the world's most expensive stand-alone casino, featuring four levels of gaming and entertainment under the light of a 7 tonne Swarovski chandelier.

The real gem of this exotic construction however is located in its crown. The three vertical 200m towers are topped with an extensive 9,941 sq m SkyPark, which totes a public observatory, jogging paths, gardens, restaurants and lounges. Basking in the limelight is a stunning 1,396 sq m infinity pool, from which guests at the hotel can enjoy the breathtaking views over the Singapore skyline. One of the world’s largest cantilevers (at 65m), the park can hold an impressive 3,900 people and is longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall. The park will be open to the public daily from 10am to 10pm.

Things haven’t always been so rosy onsite however, as the project failed to avoid the global economic crisis of recent months. Las Vegas Sands reportedly faced delays caused by labour shortages and escalating material costs, and had to delay projects elsewhere in the world in order to keep to strict deadlines. The issues didn’t stop once the first stages of the project were completed, as the first use of the conference centre – by The Inter-Pacific Bar Association – was marred by complaints of uncompleted facilities and a power cut during a speech. These mishaps found Marina Bay Sands suing the IPBA, after the firm refused to pay the S$300,000 previously agreed for use of facilities. In June, the IPBA counter-sued, complaining that its earlier payments had been imposed by ‘duress, fear and force’. Not off to a good start.

Regardless, things seem to be on the up for the delectable mixed-use development, as the June opening was deemed a full success. In line with its extreme architecture, the two-day event was topped off with a ‘World Championship Climb’, where 7 teams of 21 rock climbers scaled the shimmering glass façade of the building and 4,000 invited guests and customers were entertained with an evening concert. The SkyPark was officially opened at 2pm the following day.

Whilst one may consider this superb construction to have taken years of meticulous design, architect Moshe Safdie came on board the project with only four months left to the official Government-set deadline. Astonishingly, the Israeli architect managed to complete the 1,000,000 sq m design on time and to specification, commenting: “Singapore has invested a lot in this project, which is based in the most prominent site in Singapore. It’s right across downtown, and they set this up as a national project, they wrote very exacting terms of reference for the project. The idea was for it to have gardens on the ground, in the mid-level and in the sky, each serving another purpose and another function. All this together forms a project that is very integrated with nature and with green open spaces.”

5 Short Video Clips about Cambodia

Cambodia from Memorias de Oriente on Vimeo.


Cambodiaaaa from Diego Lorenzo F. Jose on Vimeo.


CAMBODIA TRIP from Piotr Pacewicz on Vimeo.


Cambodia from BUDDY on Vimeo.


Global X Cambodia from Whisper Productions on Vimeo.


Voyagner posted these 5 inspirational video clips about Cambodia. Check out their website and add them to your Twitter list.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Shanghai Expo in under 3 Minutes

expo shanghai 世博会(tr. 5.6.7.8's-Jane In The Jungle) from fil on Vimeo.


Fast paced look at many of the building exteriors, plus super fast tour of a few exhibits at the Shanghai Expo.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Oliver Fricker Graffiti Artist Gets the Cane





It's happened again, but this time it's an experienced graffiti artist and IT professional who committed the crime in Singapore. He was just sentenced to five months in jail and three strokes of the rattan.

Singapore Metblogs starts off the discussion with the pro graffiti argument.

In what might be the first case ever, a Singapore MRT train was graffiti’d while parked in the depot. Train painting has a long history tied to the origins of modern day writers and is fairly common in some parts of the world, but until now unheard of in Singapore. It’s easy to pass something like this off as simple vandalism but in a country which such well known policies against it this is kind of an exciting occurrence, as many people believe that graffiti is an example of the culture of a society being so active it literally bursts onto the walls. Active culture is a good thing in my book, and something that takes a little looking for in S’pore. Here’s a brief documentary about the Singapore Graffiti scene called The Art Behind The Vandalism.

/The Straits Times announces the sentence.
CONVICTED vandal Oliver Fricker was sentenced to five months' jail and three strokes of the cane on Friday evening for entering a protected place and spraying paint on two carriages of an SMRT train. The 32-year-old IT consultant is appealing against his sentence, according to his lawyer, Mr Derek Kang.

Fricker, who went to jail on Friday, had admitted to a vandalism charge and an offence under the Protected Areas and Protected Places Act. He did them with his friend, Briton Dane Alexander Lloyd, 29, at the SMRT Changi depot between May 16 and 17.

A third charge of cutting the perimeter fence of the depot was considered during his sentencing. The graffiti on the train with the large words McKoy Banos was seen by many commuters and members of the public before it was reported by a SMRT staff two days later.

Seeking an appropriate jail term on each of the two charges, Deputy Public Prosecutor Sharon Lim argued that such serious breach of the law could not be taken lightly or viewed as a mere prank. The duo, she said, were experienced graffiti writers who had targeted the SMRT train which is the backbone of Singapore's public transport system. Fricker could have been jailed for up to three years for the vandalism charge; and up to two years for entering a protected place.

Singapore Dissident points out the sad and disturbing fact that Oliver was unable to find a local attorney to represent him, and then presents a few arguments in his defence.
Other than the dubious honor that Singapore has the fewest lawyers in relation to population for any country in the world, a mere 3000 for a population of nearly 5 million, it has also earned the disgraceful notoriety, that, no Singaporean lawyer would dare question the legality of it's laws when defending his client, for fear of attracting the wrath of Singaporean strongman Lee Kuan Yew.

Strangely enough in that island, unlike every other country in the world, if there was one profession in Singapore who fear Lee Kuan Yew the most, it is the lawyers.

Oliver Fricker, the Swiss man who had tagged a Singapore subway train would not find a single lawyer in Singapore who would dare to raise the defenses that he would be raising had he been in any other country. Here is what he, or his lawyer should say.

Kent Ridge Common, the NUS student newspaper, points out the the security breach is an important lesson for Singapore, and reminds everyone that corporal punishment for such a minor act is overkill.
Swiss Oliver Fricker entered Singapore through the most original way possible — two days ago, he made the headlines by being arrested for allegedly spray painting graffiti on one of Singapore’s MRT trains. Another Briton, Lloyd Alexander, is wanted in connection with the case. He reportedly left Singapore for Hongkong before the incident was reported.

The Fricker graffiti reminded many Singaporeans of what was most probably the most infamous case of vandalism due to the international furore surrounding the corporal punishment of caning lashed out on American Michael Fay, in 1994. Fay had then spray painted several cars before being arrested and punished with 6 strokes of the cane. Following pleads for clemency by the then President Clinton, the late President Ong Teng Cheong commuted Fay’s sentence from 6 to 4 strokes of the cane.

What was Fricker’s role in this alleged case of vandalism? If reports were to be believed, he and his accomplice cut through a fence at an derelict MRT depot, before having the luxury to spray paint graffiti on an MRT carriage. He faces up to 3 years in jail, a fine, and most certainly a few strokes of the cane — given the authorities hard-nosed approach in dealing with vandals.

Most of the reports so far focused on punishing Fricker for his role in the vandalism. Sure enough, he trespassed into an out-of-bounds territory in the MRT depot and spray-painted a train. But if Fricker should be punished for vandalism, dare I say that SMRT should be equally if not more culpable.

Without question, they must answer for the startling lack of security around the premises of the train depot — an obvious easy target for terrorists. While intelligence months earlier resulting from a raid of terrorists in nearby Indonesia had pointed at the possibility of an MRT train station being targeted for terrorism (a map with a red circle around Orchard MRT was found), it is clear that from this breach of security that security strategists were still stuck within a box — that is, the box of merely deploying additional personnels for a presence around train stations, believing that a terrorist needs to board a train, deposit a bomb and leave in order to carry out acts of terrorism on our transport system. This is not to say that such a method of having security personnels on board train is ineffective, but there could be thousand more ways a terrorist may plant a bomb on a train that does not involve him boarding the train even. Cutting through the fence in a poorly guarded MRT train depot to plant a bomb is but one of the many possibilities.

Cat Parade for Rainfall


PHICHIT: After suffering from the worst drought in a decade, some 200 villagers in tambon Don Seua Leuang resurrected an old local tradition in which female cats are paraded around the village and doused with water in the hopes that their screams will induce the rain gods to release their bounty.

The ritual took place at 2pm on June 5 in the small rice-farming area of this tambon, located in Pho Prathap Chang District.

Nang Boontham, 53, said there wasn’t enough water to plant her 50-rai paddy and that she feared the annual flooding of the low-lying area would be worse this year if villagers didn’t get their paddy production underway soon.

Don Seua Leuang Tambon Administration Organization President Wisan Junthong said this year’s drought was especially bad because the village was not receiving extra water from the Ping River in neighboring Kamphaeng Phet Province, as usual. The canal usually used to channel water to the area was currently being worked on, he said.

Normally villagers in the area would begin planting as soon as rains arrived after Royal Ploughing Day in early May. When June arrived without rainfall, the villagers decided to hold the cat parade.

The ritual is one of many folk beliefs used by villagers in the North and Northeast to induce rainfall. The most popular involve firing homemade rockets into the sky.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Psychedelic Shinkansen Ride

Shinkansen ver.2 from daihei shibata on Vimeo.


A really amazing video as described by Jeremy Kressmann at Gadling as:
I don't know who's behind the recent glut of Japan-centric videos that's been floating around web. Then again, it doesn't matter, does it? All that matters is the creators behind these short movies are some seriously creative individuals. The video above comes to us courtesy of daihei shibata, a Tokyo resident who decided to film his recent train ride on Japan's Shinkansen (bullet train) between Shinosaka and Tokyo.

Not only did Daihei film his entire warp-speed ride on the fast-moving trains using his digital camera, he's also applied a unique editing treatment to the end product. You'll notice there doesn't seem to be a bottom half to the video - it's simply a reflection of the image at the top. The end product is half home movie, half kaleidoscope - a trippy visual treat that both delights and amazes the viewer. Combined with the energetic song "So High" by rockers Van She and you've got the makings of some seriously great eye candy. Whether you've been to Japan or not, here's your chance to take a wild journey through the unique eyes of one Japanese local. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's Raining Oil in Louisiana


When you pour more than a million gallons of toxic chemical dispersants on top of an oil spill, it doesn’t just disappear. In this case, it moves to the atmosphere, where it will travel hundreds, if not thousands of miles from the site of the BP oil spill, in the form of toxic rain.

BP’s oil spill-fighting dispersant of choice is Corexit 9500. It has been banned in Europe for good reason. Corexit 9500 is one of the most environmentally enduring, toxic chemical dispersants ever created to battle an oil spill. Add to that the millions of gallons of oil that have been burned, releasing even more toxins into the atmosphere, and you have a recipe for something much worse than acid rain.

The European Union Times reports "A dire report prepared for President Medvedev by Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources is warning today that the British Petroleum (BP) oil and gas leak in the Gulf of Mexico is about to become the worst environmental catastrophe in all of human history threatening the entire eastern half of the North American continent with “total destruction”.

The reports adds, "Russian scientists are basing their apocalyptic destruction assessment due to BP’s use of millions of gallons of the chemical dispersal agent known as Corexit 9500 which is being pumped directly into the leak of this wellhead over a mile under the Gulf of Mexico waters and designed, this report says, to keep hidden from the American public the full, and tragic, extent of this leak that is now estimated to be over 2.9 million gallons a day."

Oil in the environment is toxic at 11 PPM (parts per million). Corexit 9500 is toxic at only 2.61 PPM. But Corexit 9500 has another precarious characteristic; it’s reaction to warm water.

As the water in the Gulf of Mexico heats up, Corexit 9500 goes through a molecular transition. It changes from a liquid to a gas, which is readily absorbed by clouds and released as toxic rain. The chemical-laden rain then falls on crops, reservoirs, animals and of course, people.

It is futile to believe that we can keep ‘Corexit rain’ from occurring since it has already been released and the molecular transformation has begun. We have set off an unprecedented chain of events in nature that we cannot control.

By releasing Pandora’s well from the depths and allowing it bleed into the sea the unimaginable becomes material.

Yet unlike a bad dream, we will not wake up from this nightmare and find it gone. The BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill will be touching millions of earth’s life forms for uncountable years.

The Strange Striker

Motorcycle Blues

Doesn't Get Any Fresher Than This

1,033 Kg of Heroin Bust


Junkies all over the world are crying in their needles, as Shanghaiist reports on this amazing bust.

In the biggest drug bust in China's history, police arrested 20 suspects and seized 1,033 kg (2,277 pounds) of heroin. That's enough to reenact the adrenaline needle scene from Pulp Fiction about a million times, give or take.

Huangpu Customs in Guangdong Province disclosed the information as they were getting ready to destroy drugs from a raid last year (a meager 545 kilos of heroin). The drugs from this bust are scheduled to be destroyed on the 25th.

When we first heard about this latest bust, we'll confess, we were hoping for pictures of police officers standing next to mountains of loose heroin (that's how drug dealers store it, right?). Instead we get what looks like all the smack packages in the world spread out in a neat grid spanning a football field, which is really the only way to keep track of your China White: meticulously. (Also, is that a velvet sheet in picture two?)

Video Postcard from Hong Kong and Shanghai

China Reel from Kalum Ko on Vimeo.


Visually arresting short video clip of Hong Kong and Shanghai, although it's mostly an omage to HK. The background music is too sweet for my tastes, and I'd rather have some techno to get the blood flowing. Still, a fine look at these 2 great cities.

The Chinese Yuan Travel Guide


CNNGo today has a very clever post about the new set of Chinese Yuan which depict various tourist places in China. Great idea! They then describe the attraction and tell you why you should visit these places.

That isn't a Chinese note, I know. Do you know the country?

China is finally making some moves with the yuan. Heck, even United States President Barack Obama is happy. But the yuan isn't just good for purchasing things; the current fifth series Renminbi notes are also an awesome ready-made travel itinerary.

Depicted on the notes are six destinations Chinese authorities have deemed worthy of mass circulation, ranging from UNESCO-inscribed iconic architecture to the most stunning natural landscapes. Visit them all on a quirky, once-in-a-lifetime quest, literally following the money through the Middle Kingdom.

1 yuan
“Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon,” West Lake, Hangzhou..


What’s depicted on the yuan: One of the famous “Ten Scenes of West Lake” (西湖十景) in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Referred to as the “Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon” (三潭印月), these two-meter high stone pagodas are located in the water on the south side of Xiaoying Island.

Why go: Summer is always a great time to go boating on the lake, but autumn is magical. A candle is lit inside each pagoda on the night of the mid-Autumn festival, allowing shafts of light to shine through five round holes on the bottom levels of each one. They cast reflections on the water’s surface that resemble little moons. It’s an absolutely stunning effect, especially with the moon glowing overhead.

Getting there: On a West Lake boat trip. Cruise boats shuttle frequently around the main spots on the lake, including Xiaoying Island. A more expensive option is to get onboard a six-person boat rowed by boatmen; look for them along the causeways.

What Happens When You Set Your Capital on Fire


TravelFish founder Stuart has posted a fascinating graph which shows the declining business of hotel reservations in Bangkok during the 2 months of protests by the red shirts. The text provides further insight into this depressing situation. Cheer up Stu, at least you're living in lovely Bali.

They say that a picture says a thousand words so I won’t waffle on about the about chart (bigger version here), other than to say it represents the rather precipitous fall in daily hotel reservations through Travelfish via one of our affiliate partners.

This is all reservation enquiries, so doesn’t take into account cancellations — meaning the fall is actually considerably worse than what the above illustrates. I should also note the airport shutdowns instigated by the yellow shirts had an equally destructive effect on reservations — I just don’t have time right now to make two charts!

Given that matters are sizing up for another meltdown around October/November this year (ie just in time for the peak tourist season) it is difficult to understate just how damaging all this is to the Thai economy. While it is clear Thailand has very serious societal issues that do need to be addressed, crucifying the travel and tourism industries seems hardly to be the way forward.

Who would have thought six years ago (when we started Travelfish.org) that today Indonesia would be seeing relatively progressive economic development accompanied by encouraging signs on the tourism side of things, while Thailand would be actively working to reinvent itself into the region’s new basketcase.

5 Jobs for Westerners in Thailand


Nothing much earth shaking here, but for the novices seeking work in Thailand, it's a gentle reminder of a few job opportunities. Steve runs a website which primarily promotes luxury hotels in Thailand, and he does a good job although it's obviously a promotional effort. And I assume he is charging for a listing.

So you’ve been to Thailand and fell in love with the culture, the people and the easy lifestyle. You absolutely have to get back and you think you even want to live there. Sounds good to me, I have the same aspirations. The problem is, unless you have a trust fund or some very generous relatives (I have neither) you’ll need a way to make money while you’re in Thailand. Are there ways for a foreigner to make money while living in Thailand? You bet there are! Don’t expect to get rich, but you will have the pleasure of living in the land of smiles and all of the cultural benefits of living in a foreign land. Here are some ways you can go about putting some cash in the bank while you live and enjoy Thailand.

1. Teach English – This is probably the most popular method for native English speakers to make money while living in Thailand (or any other foreign country for that matter). You don’t really need anything to get started except a good command of English and to get your butt to Thailand. While it’s possible to find teaching jobs online it’s not very likely unless you are a licensed teacher already and you are applying to the top tier international schools in Bangkok. For the rest of us it’s best to just get to Thai and start knocking about looking for work. English teachers generally make around 35,000 baht a month and upward, depending on how hard you want to work. One very good resource for prospective English teachers in Bangkok and Thailand is Ajarn.com. They have been around since 1999 and have the best information about teaching in Thailand that I’ve seen. Plus they have links to many of the English schools and a fantastic job board. I could go more in depth about teaching English in Thailand as a job, but they have it all covered already. If you have a university degree you may want to try for a job at one of Thailand’s International Schools. The competition is fierce, but the pay scale is typically much better than the language schools.

2. Translator – Not many people know it, but it is quite possible to find work as a translator for Thai businesses in Bangkok. English is the international language of business and if you don’t mind presenting products then this could be right up your alley. Pay can range anywhere from 2000-6000 baht a day which isn’t too bad if you can find steady work. To get this kind of job does require some networking, but it’s not hard.The best way to get started is by getting yourself out there and networking. Dress sharp, image is very important to Thai’s. White shirt, dark pants and blazer and a tie are necessary for this work. Check the Bangkok Post for business conventions which are typically held at the Queen Sirikrit Convention Center which is on Ratchadaphisek Rd. near the Thailand Stock Market off Rama IV Rd. Once there simply mingle and talk with some of the businesses there. You’ll find that many of them will be happy to hire you on to help promote their products in English.

3. Actor/Model – Another little known job for falangs (foreigners) in Thailand is as actors or models. The pay isn’t great, but if you build a name for yourself you can get fairly consistent work. And I understand it’s a great way to meet the ladies. Again, you can find leads in the Bangkok Post or try putting together a small portfolio of photographs and mailing it to the modeling/acting agencies listed in the yellow pages. If you’re really serious you may want to get an agent as they can be invaluable in securing work and negotiating. Pay can range from 2000 baht a day and up. Not great, but the work is easy and wouldn’t it be glamorous to say you’re a model/actor?

4. Dive Instructor – If you’ve got PADI dive certification and can get or already have dive instructor certification this could be perfect for you. It’s not really up my alley so I’m not sure how easy it would be to get this job, but the Andaman sea has some of the best diving in the world and there are a whole host of dive shops and live aboards that work from the islands of Thailand. I would guess the pay isn’t great, but this isn’t really something you do for the pay, you do it for the passion and the experience.

5. Accountant, engineer, salesman, lawyer or any professional position. You won’t get a job at a Thai company for most professional positions, but if you’ve got experience you may be able to land a position with a multi-national company that has offices in Bangkok. Since you’ll be getting paid in your home countries currency and will very likely have all the benefits of an ex-pat package (retirement, housing, travel, tuition for children, medical insurance, etc) these are the sweetest jobs around. I don’t qualify, but if you do and you want to get yourself to Thailand start looking. Price Waterhouse has a lot of ex-pats in Asia as do large multi-nationals like Siemens, IBM, HP, and any petrol related business. If you really want to be here then that should be enough motivation to conduct a comprehensive search.

Thailand Musings

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Top 100 Celebrated Travel Books of all Time

http://www.worldhum.com/features/lists/the-100-most-celebrated-travel-books-list-20100427/

Lists: The definitive list of travel books that travel writers, editors, bloggers and readers love best.

http://www.worldhum.com/features/lists/the-100-most-celebrated-travel-books-list-20100427/ has a wonderful list of the best 100 travel books of all time. Something has happened to my old, familiar way to make hot links, but each book on the list appears to have it's own individual link. If you would like to click around at some books, you'll need to do a copy and paste with all the garbage that starts his message. I hate it when this happens...


How did we come up with our list? We scoured the web and dug up every “best travel books” list we could find, from writers, bloggers and publications like Salon, Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler and Transitions Abroad. (Naturally, we consulted our own top 30 list, too). Then we pulled out the books that were cited most often and added a few bestsellers.

You’ll find that a few books don’t fit the most rigid definition of travel memoir; we didn’t want our list to be too narrow or fussy. Rather, we wanted it to be broad and inclusive. Also, although we numbered the books from 1 to 100, we didn’t rank them; they appear here in alphabetical order. (You can find the 10 most celebrated books here.) The lists we drew from are noted below the book titles. The numbers in brackets after each book title on the list correspond to the source lists on which that title appears; a dollar sign in brackets indicates that a book was included based on extremely high sales. (Read the fine print for more detail on how we determined the 100 most celebrated travel books of all time.)

1) A Dragon Apparent, by Norman Lewis (5, 7)
2) A House in Bali, by Colin McPhee (4, 11)
3) A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway (4, 6)
4) A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, by Eric Newby (1, 2, 3, 8, 10, 11, 12, 15)
5) A Time of Gifts, by Patrick Leigh Fermor (1, 2, 7, 8, 12)
6) A Turn in the South, by V.S. Naipaul (1)
7) A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson ($)
8) A Winter in Arabia, by Freya Stark (5)
9) Among the Russians, by Colin Thubron (3, 7)
10) An Area of Darkness, by V.S. Naipaul (2, 7, 8)
11) Arabian Sands, by Wilfred Thesiger (1, 2, 3, 4)
12) Arctic Dreams, by Barry Lopez (4, 11)
13) The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton (5, 12)
14) As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, by Laurie Lee (3, 5)
15) Baghdad Without a Map, by Tony Horwitz (1)
16) Balkan Ghosts, by Robert D. Kaplan (4, 6)
17) Beyond Euphrates, by Freya Stark (7)
18) The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer, by Eric Hansen (2)
19) Bitter Lemons of Cyprus, by Lawrence Durrell (2, 7)
20) Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, by Rebecca West (2)
21) Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin (13)
22) Blue Highways, by William Least Heat-Moon (2, 4, 8, 11, 12, 13)
23) Brazilian Adventure, by Peter Fleming (4, 5, 8)
24) Chasing the Sea, by Tom Bissell (2)
25) City of Djinns, by William Dalrymple (1, 4)
26) Coasting, by Jonathan Raban (3)
27) Coming Into the Country, by John McPhee (4, 9, 10, 11)
28) Dark Star Safari, by Paul Theroux (2, 11)
29) Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey (4, 11, 12)
30) Down the Nile, by Rosemary Mahoney (2)
31) Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert ($)
32) The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe (13)
33) Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing (2, 11)
34) Facing the Congo, by Jeffrey Tayler (1)
35) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson (2, 3, 6, 13)
36) Four Corners, by Kira Salak (6)
37) Full Circle, by Michael Palin (4, 11)
38) Full Tilt: Ireland to India With a Bicycle, by Dervla Murphy (5)
39) Golden Earth, by Norman Lewis (1)
40) Great Plains, by Ian Frazier (2, 11)
41) The Great Railway Bazaar, by Paul Theroux (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
42) Holidays in Hell, by P.J. O’Rourke (12)
43) Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell (3, 4)
44) Hunting Mister Heartbreak, by Jonathan Raban (1, 7)
45) In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson (1, 2, 4, 11, 14)
46) In Patagonia, by Bruce Chatwin (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)
47) In Siberia, by Colin Thubron (4, 12)
48) In Trouble Again, by Redmond O’Hanlon (2, 4)
49) The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain (1, 2, 6)
50) Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer (6, 11)
51) Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer ($)
52) Iron and Silk, by Mark Salzman (2, 4)
53) Kon-Tiki, by Thor Heyerdahl (15)
54) The Lady and the Monk, by Pico Iyer (12)
55) Life on the Mississippi, by Mark Twain (2, 13)
56) The Log From the Sea of Cortez, by John Steinbeck (11)
57) The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz (2, 11)
58) The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson (4, 8, 12, 13)
59) Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, by Suketu Mehta (2, 6)
60) The Motorcycle Diaries, by Ernesto “Che” Guevara (14)
61) The Muses Are Heard, by Truman Capote (2)
62) No Mercy, by Redmond O’Hanlon (1, 2, 10, 12)
63) Notes From a Small Island, by Bill Bryson (3, 5)
64) Nothing to Declare, by Mary Morris (4, 8)
65) Old Glory, by Jonathan Raban (2, 4, 7)
66) The Old Patagonian Express, by Paul Theroux (4, 12)
67) Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen (4, 7, 11)
68) Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard (9, 12)
69) The Pillars of Hercules, by Paul Theroux (2, 11)
70) The Places in Between, by Rory Stewart (2, 11, 15)
71) Riding to the Tigris, by Freya Stark (1)
72) The Rings of Saturn, by W.G. Sebald (2, 15)
73) The River at the Center of the World, by Simon Winchester (4)
74) River Town, by Peter Hessler (1)
75) Road Fever, by Tim Cahill (1, 4, 12)
76) The Road to Oxiana, by Robert Byron (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7)
77) Roughing It, by Mark Twain (2, 4, 11, 13)
78) Sea and Sardinia, by D.H. Lawrence (2, 4)
79) Seven Years in Tibet, by Heinrich Harrer (4, 6, 11, 14)
80) The Sex Lives of Cannibals, by J. Maarten Troost (6, 12)
81) The Size of the World, by Jeff Greenwald (1, 6, 12)
82) Slowly Down the Ganges, by Eric Newby (2, 4)
83) The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen (1, 4, 9, 10, 11)
84) The Soccer War, by Ryszard Kapuscinski (1)
85) The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin (1, 2, 4, 12)
86) Terra Incognita, by Sara Wheeler (4, 11)
87) Their Heads are Green and Their Hands are Blue, by Paul Bowles (2)
88) Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson (11)
89) Travels With Charley, by John Steinbeck (1, 3, 4, 6, 11, 12, 13)
90) Travels With Myself and Another, by Martha Gellhorn (2, 15)
91) Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, by Jan Morris (1, 5)
92) Two Towns in Provence, by M.F.K. Fisher (2, 4, 7, 10)
93) Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes (6)
94) Video Night in Kathmandu, by Pico Iyer (1, 4, 6, 10, 12)
95) West With the Night, by Beryl Markham (2, 4)
96) When the Going was Good, by Evelyn Waugh (1, 7)
97) The World of Venice, by Jan Morris (3)
98) The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard (2, 5, 11)
99) Wrong About Japan, by Peter Carey (2)
100) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig (10, 13)

MORE: The 100 Most Celebrated Travel Books of All Time: By the Numbers | The Fine Print | Mapped | Five Great Covers

Source Lists
1) World Hum’s Top 30 Travel Books
2) Conde Nast Traveler’s 86 Greatest Travel Books of All Time
3) The Telegraph’s 20 Best Travel Books of All Time
4) National Geographic Traveler’s Ultimate Travel Library
5) The Times Online’s 20 Best Travel Books of the Past Century
6) Brave New Traveler’s 50 Greatest Travel Books of All Time
7) From Salon, Tom Swick’s Top 20 Travel Books of the 20th Century
8) The International Society of Travel Writers’ Top 10 Best Travel Books of the 20th Century
9) From Salon, Don George’s Favorite Travel Books
10) Salon’s Top 10 Travel Books of the 20th Century
11) NileGuide’s Top 50 Adventure Books of All Time
12) From Transitions Abroad, Top 10 Travel Books lists from a variety of travel writers: Jim Benning, Michael Shapiro, Rolf Potts, Ron Mader, Rory MacLean, Tim Leffel and Ayun Halliday.
13) Smithsonian’s Great Road Trips in American Literature
14) Nomadic Matt’s Best Travel Books
15) The Travel Bookshop’s Top 10 Travel Books

Amazing High Tech Toy Helicopter

Aerial video with a Canon 5D , 7D helivideo.com from Eric AUSTIN on Vimeo.


Eric Austin has been shooting some amazing HD video using Canon 5D and 7D DSLR cameras mounted on electric remote controlled helicopters.

The Desire to Crush All Opposition




Gotta love Political Prisoners in Thailand. As with most of us, Thaksin was considered the devil incarnate when he was in office, and a major abuser of human rights, not to mention using his position and power to add to his substantial wealth. He was legitimately elected PM three times, but when he threated the traditional power structure of royalty, the military, and to a less extent the beaurcracy, it was time for the military to go for the traditional way to keep the richies in power: yet another embarrasing coup. Here's PPT latest examination on why Thailand fails in almost every respect to be a democracy.

The desire to crush all opposition

For the Military-backed Abhisit Vejjajiva regime the crushing of the red shirts was always more than ending the demonstration at Rajaprasong. For the royalist ruling class, the desire is to crush opposition that is seen as challenging to their social, political and economic power. The crackdown is continuing to deepen.

PPT has already mentioned the deep commitment that the royalists in government have to weeding out those they believe are anti-monarchists and republicans.

The New York Times reports that the “government has moved into the next phase of a campaign against the dissident movement known as the red shirts, freezing the assets of scores of people it says helped finance recent protests, and planning to summon them for questioning.” (See Bangkok Pundit on this.)

The NYT notes that Abhisit has emphasized so-called national reconciliation while, at the very same time, “hundreds of members of the opposition have been arrested and held without trial.” It observes that the premier’s “plan” has now “added to the atmosphere of acrimony, becoming a new focus for attack from government opponents.” The BBC also has some video on this “reconciliation” process.

Bangkok Pundit has another excellent post on reconciliation and the chosen committee, recalling PPT’s earlier point that reconciliation for Abhisit means rejected opposition, speaking only to his buddies and yellow-shirted supporters, and appointing the same to his various reconciliation committess.

The overall result, according to the NYT is that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has said that emergency rule will be maintained, essentially allowing the government to do almost whatever it wants, effectively placing it above the law, especially as the courts are almost always on the government’s side.

The government continues to hunt down people it thinks might have funded the red shirts. The highly-politicized Department of Special Investigation has identified a shortened list of “83 individuals and companies that were thought to support the protesters had made suspiciously large and frequent financial transactions over the past nine months. It said questioning [of suspects] would begin next Monday.”

Some of the amounts claimed are ludicrous. For example, Thaksin Shinawatra’s cousin, Chaiyasit, is accused of using almost $1.14 billion.

In response to allegations of political harassment and persecution, Abhisit makes the following absurd statement: “I insist that the government has never intended to persecute anyone.” He insists that “suspicious financial transactions” need to be controlled. He seems to have forgotten all those in jail, killed and being hunted.

Abhisit is hardly mentally inhibited, so PPT assumes that he realizes that he is demanding controls on private funding that are unlikely to “prevent further unrest and that people whose accounts had been frozen would still be able to do things like pay utility bills and staff salaries and service debts” but that will prevent these people from making political contributions to legal political parties when election time comes about, if it ever does.

Abhisit, like many of his supporters, believe that funding keeps red shirts going and gets pro-Thaksin parties elected. They are wrong, but can’t see it. That said, if Puea Thai Party’s main financial backers are blocked, then the Democrat Party and its pro-military coalition partners can have an open road in funding.

This is beginning to look increasingly like a co-ordinated plan to ensure royalist-military-”Democrat” rule for some time to come. So-called reconciliation is nothing but a political Orwellianism that hunts, harasses, inhibits, and destroys opponents.

Doug Lansky Video:-- Dubious Achievements in Travel



The always hilarious Doug lansky put together the above video just to show how truley awful travel can be at times. The video also provides links to where you can purchase his book. Nice work, Doug.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010



Seth Stevenson is the guy at Slate who reviews TV commercials, so if he claims this is the best ever, who am I to argue?

The Spot: Soccer stars imagine the alternate universes they might create with their play—good or bad—in the upcoming World Cup. Will they be winners or losers? Heroes or goats? Adored celebrities or shunned trailer park shut-ins? It can all hang on a single kick of the ball. As the spot closes, the words "Write the Future" appear above the familiar Nike swoosh.

Yahoo! Buzz FacebookMySpace Mixx Digg Reddit del.icio.us Furl Ma.gnolia SphereStumbleUponCLOSEIn 1994, when the World Cup first arrived on American soil, Nike's soccer division brought in $40 million in annual revenue. This year, the figure is $1.7 billion. Together with subsidiary label Umbro, Nike is now the No. 1 soccer brand on the planet. Which is astonishing, given that 1) it's an American company, and Americans still aren't fully on board with this frou-frou soccer stuff; 2) Adidas, its major rival in the category, had been synonymous with big-time futbol for decades—long before swoosh-emblazoned soccer cleats were even a gleam in Phil Knight's eye.

How did Nike eat Adidas' home-cooked lunch? It wasn't by manufacturing better cleats. It was by manufacturing a better image. The fact that a jogging-shoe company from Oregon could establish itself as the world's dominant soccer brand is the ultimate testament to the power of shrewd, relentless marketing.

Nike clawed its way to the top by employing its gushing cash flow (which stems, in part, from the brand's 85 percent share of the U.S. market for basketball footwear) to sign expensive endorsement contracts with a slew of major soccer stars. In 2007, Nike bought Umbro—official maker of the England national squad's uniforms—for roughly $580 million. And now comes this monumental three-minute ad, which is without doubt the most expensive soccer commercial ever made.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

More from Laughing Squid



A budding rockstar for the bricolage generation, 21-year old electronic musician Pogo (aka Nick Bertke) creates original musical compositions using small sounds taken from famous films. His most recent track, the his elaborately layered “Skynet Symphonic“, was composed entirely with sounds from director James Cameron’s “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”.

His most notable track, Alice, a composition of sounds from the Disney film ‘Alice In Wonderland’, was received with much success gaining 4 million views on YouTube as of December 2010. Pogo has since produced tracks using films like ‘Up’, ‘Mary Poppins’, ‘Harry Potter’, ‘The Sword In The Stone’, ‘Hook’, and ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’.

Pogo also creates all the videos for his songs, wonderfully mesmerizing staccato tone poems that not only evoke the spirit of the movies from which they were made, but often illuminate some new aspect about them.

Like many collage artists before him, such as Plunderphonics creator John Oswald, Pogo was drawn to the form by an innate desire to hear specific sounds repeatedly, and in a different fashion.

“For as long as I can remember, I have always detected small sounds in musical arrangements that appeal to me. I find myself with a natural desire to hear those sounds over and over. During my teenage years, it seemed logical for me to record these sounds and sequence them to form new pieces of music. …The essence of my work is to capture the elements of a scene or film that captivate me, and use them to make music that I can love.” [Interview on Youth Drip]

Given his chosen idiom, Pogo is understandably dedicated to changing the way we view copyright infringement in today’s remix culture.

“The purpose of copyright today is very questionable if I do say so myself. It may have originally been conceived to serve the creative mind in its expressive endeavours, but nowadays its used by business trolls as a mousetrap for profiting from equations and technicalities. It’s inevitable that if something is beautiful and inspiring to people, it will be used and promoted by thousands if not more. The human spirit is relentless. I don’t think Disney can copyright Alice’s voice any more than the inventor of the violin could have copyrighted its sound. The very idea is ridiculous.” [Interview with Melanie McBride]

To hear more of Pogo’s work, visit his website or YouTube channel.


Laughing Squid Link with all the Hot Links



I was trying to connect with a post from Political Prisoners in Thailand, about PM Abhisit and his twisted approach to reconciliation, but the connection didn't fly. Instead, I went back to my Bloglines RSS Reader and clicked on the Fun Stuff folder, just to get a few laughs after all the dismal news coming from Bangkok.

One of my main feeds in Fun Stuff is Laughing Squid, which is a web provider here in San Francisco, and also an excellent source of great daily links to new videos and photographs from not only SF but from around the world. I highly recommend their blog for your pleasure.

The latest from Laughing Squid is a mash from a recent motion picture.



A wonderful remix of the Disney Pixar film “Up” by Pogo, whose previous work includes the fantastic Terminator 2 “Skynet Symphonic” and Alice In Wonderland remix
.

New Immigration Building in Bangkok





Big Baby Kenny has a superb series of photos of the new immigration office in Bangkok. He concludes that the building is spacious and beautiful, but the same hassles remain as with the old immigration office off Sathorn Road. I could also use a map to locate the new immigration office and perhaps some transport tips. Otherwise, a great post and very useful for farangs living in Bangkok and Pattaya.

Shanghai in Time Lapse 2



In order to commemorate the unblocking of Vimeo, here's a video from the site about Shanghai - see how you can see it now even if you don't have a VPN? Yay! Anyhow, it's a time lapse by Joe Nafis called Shanghai-ed | Shanghai In a Minute. Enjoy!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Dust Storm in China





Yikes! Daily Mail has the details.

Like a scene from a Hollywood disaster movie, a towering cloud of sand dwarfs the rows of uniform houses as it descends on a small village in central China.
Residents hid inside their homes with their windows and doors locked shut as the dust storm swept through the region advancing 70ft a minute.

The region is near the edge of the Gobi desert. Day turned to night as tons of dust temporarily blocked out the sun and reduced visibility to around 600ft. But suddenly the storm calmed and the mile-high cloud settled back to Earth again, leaving villagers with a major clean-up operation.

Golmud is home to 200,000 people with 140,000 living in the city centre. The new industrial city is built on a flat expanse close to the borders of the Gobi desert, which is the largest desert in Asia. Although not an ideal place to live, tens of thousands of people have relocated there to work at the salt lakes in the region.

But the prospect of a good job and lots of living space comes at a price. Every spring strong winds blow across the Gobi creating huge columns of dust and sand, which are then dumped nearby. The dust can cause frequent power blackouts, transport delays and respiratory illness.

These buildings didn't need their camouflage paint as the sand quickly hid the village from view in mid May. The massive sand storm swept along at 70ft a minute
The Gobi sand even travels as far as Beijing, with nearly a million tons of desert blown into the city each year. In March this year China's capital turned orange during a particularly ferocious dust storm.

More than a quarter of China - around one million square miles - is covered in sand with the Gobi covering northern parts of the country. The bad news for the government is that the desert is growing despite their best efforts to contain it. The process of desertification has been worsened by over-grazing, deforestation, urban sprawl and an increasingly erratic climate.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences estimates that the number of sandstorms has jumped six-fold in the past 50 years to two dozen a year. Around 80 per cent of them occur between March and May.

Spectacular Truck Crash



Some idiot car driver changes lanes without bothering to look at the huge truck in the adjacent lane. All hell breaks loose.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dennis Hopper The Later Years





Dennis Hopper The Early Years





Dennis Hopper RIP


I don't usually do remembrances here on this blog, but for such an icon as Dennis Hopper I will jump over the fence.

Dennis Hopper, seen here in 1982 at the time of a screening of his 1971 film The Last Movie at the ICA in London. He told the Observer's critic, Philip French, that this was his favourite image of himself. Photograph: Jane Bown for the Observer

Dennis Hopper, who has died aged 74, was one of Hollywood's great modern outlaws. His persona, on and off the screen, signified the lost idealism of the 1960s. There were stages in Hopper's career when he was deemed unemployable because of his reputation as a hell-raiser and his substance abuse. However, he made spectacular comebacks and managed to kick his dependence on alcohol and cocaine.

Born in Dodge City, Kansas, Hopper, whose father was a post-office manager and mother a lifeguard instructor, expressed an interest in painting and acting at a young age. While still in his teens, he appeared in repertory at Pasadena Playhouse, California, and studied acting with Dorothy McGuire and John Swope at the Old Globe theatre, San Diego.

The year of his 19th birthday, 1955, was extraordinary. Not only did Hopper have substantial parts in three television dramas, but he was cast in supporting roles in James Dean's last two films: Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant (released in 1956). The two actors became friends over the few months before Dean, whom Hopper idolised, was killed in a car accident aged 24.

In Rebel Without a Cause, Hopper is the youngest and slightest member of the juvenile delinquent gang that provokes Dean. In Giant, he gave a sensitive performance as the son of Texan oil millionaire Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor, who marries a Mexican girl and wants to "go north" to become a doctor – decisions against his father's wishes. Although Hopper appeared only briefly with Dean in both movies, the latter had a huge influence on him.

Hopper brought some moody Method mannerisms to bear on his following roles, mostly as callow, trigger-happy villains in westerns, such as Billy Clanton in Gunfight at the OK Corral (1956) – "I don't know why I get into gunfights. I guess sometimes I just get lonely" – and From Hell to Texas (1958), on which he got into a confrontation with director Henry Hathaway, refusing to take direction for several days. He was also a grumpy, childish Napoleon in the infamous, star-studded The Story of Mankind (1957) and the leader of a street gang, dubbed "Cowboy", in Key Witness (1960).

In the 1960s, Hopper, who alienated several veteran directors and producers, was pronounced difficult, argumentative and violently temperamental. However, he continued to get work, mostly in minor baddie roles, in major movies including Cool Hand Luke (1963), The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) and True Grit (1969). He also turned up in the weird space vampire film Queen of Blood (1966), in which he played a clean-cut astronaut who has the blood sucked out of him. The executive producer on the film was Roger Corman, who had just begun his cycle of dope and biker movies, and cast Hopper with Peter Fonda in the seminal acid flick The Trip (1967). The duo together conceived, wrote, with Terry Southern, raised the finance for, and starred in the alienated youth road movie Easy Rider (1969), with Hopper directing.

Made for $400,000, the film's combination of drugs, rock music, violence, a counter-culture stance and motorcycles as ultimate freedom machines caught the imagination of the young, made pop icons of Hopper and Fonda on their bikes and took over $16m at the box office. This rose to more than $60m worldwide in the next three years. It also brought Hopper, Fonda and Southern a best screenplay Oscar nomination. Easy Rider, which led to a stream of tacky, imitative pictures with equally loud rock soundtracks, retains legendary status in Hollywood lore, although these self-pitying "flower children" of the 60s now seem as dated as the "bright young things" of the 1920s.

Hopper, meanwhile, was out of control. His eight-year marriage to Brooke Hayward, the daughter of actor Margaret Sullavan, had ended in divorce. In 1970, he married Michelle Phillips, of the Mamas & the Papas, but it lasted eight days. ("The first seven days were pretty good," Hopper once commented.) In the same year, a raving, naked, drug-fuelled Hopper was arrested while running around Los Alamos, New Mexico.

In 1971, following the success of Easy Rider, Hopper was bankrolled by Universal with $850,000 and given total creative control to make whatever kind of movie he wished. He decamped to Peru with a cast and crew for a self-penned, directed and edited meta-monstrosity, The Last Movie (1971). Starring Hopper as a stuntman with a Christ complex on the set of a western being directed by Samuel Fuller, the film, made for the stoned by the stoned, was stoned by the critics.

Before the film's limited release, Hopper wrote and appeared in an autobiographical documentary, The American Dreamer (1971), which showed him editing The Last Movie at his home in Taos, New Mexico, spouting hippy philosophy, taking baths with women and shooting guns. This sealed his reputation as the most flipped-out man in the movies, and he spent the next 15 years in foreign films, personal projects, and low-budget arthouse or exploitation movies.

The quality of these veered wildly, but Hopper turned in one of his most memorable performances as Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley character, who has the enigmatic, homicidal title role in Wim Wenders's The American Friend (1977). High on drugs, he improvised much of his part of the photojournalist buzzing around Marlon Brando in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979).

In 1980, Hopper directed his third feature, Out of the Blue, an effective piece of post-hippy American gothic, about a family well outside the mainstream. It focuses on a 15-year-old punk girl (Linda Manz) trying to survive in a world of drunks (Hopper plays an alcoholic father), drug addicts and rapists. Made in Canada, the picture was well received when it was released three years later, assisting Hopper's reintegration into Hollywood.

In 1983, Hopper entered a drug rehabilitation programme. By then, according to Peter Biskind's book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, his cocaine intake had reached three grams a day, complemented by an additional 30 beers, marijuana and Cuba Libres. After emerging relatively clean from the programme, he played another alcoholic father – this time to Matt Dillon – in Coppola's Rumble Fish (1983), now a commanding elder statesman amid the brat-pack cast.

Hopper's comeback was consecrated in 1986, with his astonishing portrayal of a psychopathic kidnapper in David Lynch's Blue Velvet. His performance, in which he inhales an unspecified gas and screams "Mommy" at Isabella Rossellini during bizarre sex scenes, became as much a conversation piece as the film itself. This role as a crazed, drug-dealing sadist was followed with an antithetically subdued and touching performance as an ashamed dad seeking redemption in Hoosiers in the same year. Hopper, who seemed to draw on his down-and-out years, was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar.

Hopper appeared in three further films in 1986 – ranging from a leftwing media terrorist in Riders of the Storm to a mad ex-biker with his own strangely moral code in River's Edge, and the former Texas Ranger who wants revenge for the chainsaw death of his brother in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. He continued to be extremely busy in the following year, playing a Texan tycoon bumped off by his wife in Black Widow and Molly Ringwald's father in The Pick-up Artist.

In 1988, Hopper directed Robert Duvall and Sean Penn in a violently realistic cops-versus-street gangs drama, Colors, released to a debate as to whether the film reflected or exacerbated intense gang conflicts in Los Angeles. A worse fate met his next directorial effort, Catchfire (1989), in which he starred with Jodie Foster as, respectively, kidnapper and responsive victim. Released in an edited version of which he did not approve, the film, at Hopper's insistence, was attributed to Alan Smithee (the pseudonym for directors preferring to remain anonymous).

In Flashback (1990), as an erstwhile 60s radical activist gone underground, Hopper seems to be playing his own legend, drawing inspiration from his earlier characters. At one stage, he remarks, "It takes more than going down to your local video store and renting Easy Rider to become a rebel."

This led to similarly offbeat performances, many of them variations on the smiling, charming, cold-blooded killer with a screw loose. He stood out in supporting roles in True Romance (1993) and the box-office smash Speed (1994), and his blackly humorous edge almost redeemed some of the mediocre thrillers he appeared in throughout the 90s, though little saved Chasers (1994), a leaden naval comedy, the seventh and last of the features he directed.

In 2008, Hopper appeared in the TV series Crash, the spin-off from the Paul Haggis 2004 movie, as a verbose, eccentric, down-on-his-luck music producer. Hopper proudly stated that it was the craziest character he had ever played.

Despite his radical persona, Hopper was a paid-up Republican, though he voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 election. In that year, he appeared in An American Carol, a flabby liberal-bashing comedy with Jon Voight, Kelsey Grammer and James Woods as fellow rightwingers.

Hopper, who played an art dealer in the 1996 film Basquiat, was also an accomplished painter and sculptor, and a well-connected player on the American art scene. He was a skilled photographer whose subjects included Martin Luther King; fellow artists Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg; and co-stars including Paul Newman and John Wayne. In 2007, he presented the Turner prize at Tate Liverpool.

He was married five times and is survived by four children: a daughter by Brooke Hayward; a daughter by Daria Halprin (the female lead in Antonioni's Zabriskie Point); a son by Katherine LaNasa; and a daughter by Victoria Duffy, his widow.

• Dennis Lee Hopper, actor, photographer and painter, born 17 May 1936; died 29 May 2010