Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Singaporeans arrested for protest in support of Burmese Activists from choonhiong on Vimeo.
Two Singapore activists, Seelan Palay and Chong Kai Xiong were arrested by the police for protesting against the denial of work permits to Burmese nationals who had taken part in protests in Singapore against the military regime in Burma.
Choon Hiong on Vimeo
Since the closure of CD Warehouse in The Emporium, which was presumably a victim of the widespread copyright infringement permitted by the Thai authorities, it has become extremely difficult for fans of foreign music to acquire legal copies of CDs and individual songs in Thailand. Few outlets now stock legal copies of anything other than the latest pop hits, and the major copyright owners refuse to allow downloads to computers in Thailand.
Try downloading a legal copy of a song from iTunes or Amazon and you will be confronted with a rude message informing you that the copyright owner restricts sale of his product to your country. The only legal alternative for items not available in Thailand is to order physical CDs from overseas, incurring expensive airmail charges and, if you are unlucky, import duty too.
The copyright owners are effectively forcing consumers in Thailand to either buy poorly packaged pirated versions of foreign music or to download from free peer-to-peer copyright infringers such as Limewire or the host of Russian websites that welcome customers from Thailand, such as MP3sparks, MusicMP3.ru and Gomusic.ru, and offer a wide selection of albums and individual song downloads for a few baht a song. It is hard to understand why the record companies refuse to allow consumers to purchase their products legally in Thailand. This practice actively encourages piracy and creates a feeling that they deserve what they get.
Bangkok Pundit also covers the same letter (great minds think alike) with some useful comments, especially from Wise Kwai.
John Hardy of Udon Thani points out an important fact about air fare advertising in Thailand. It's my understanding that most European countries now require airlines to advertise the complete price of all tickets, including various fees and surcharges that can dramatically increase total price.
Unlike many countries in the world, Thailand still allows airlines and travel agencies to advertise fares that do not include the numerous taxes and add-ons that are nicely hidden somewhere in the body copy (if at all).
The latest example by Jetstar promoting a one-way fare of just 19 baht to Singapore is a good example. Nothing is said about the additional taxes of 2,071 baht that have to be added. And what's this ''insurance and other surcharges''of 425 baht? Insurance of what?
And, while we're at it: unlike a major competitor of theirs, Jetstar still charge a fuel surcharge of 946 baht.
It is time Thailand's ad regulators demanded that airlines and travel agencies show the total fare in the advertised price. Jetstar know all about this since it is law in Australia, their home country, to show the total fare.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Harry Nicolaides rots in prison for a crime he did not commit against the Royal Family of Thailand. Yet, the King does not get involved, but allows radical royalist elements to dictate and control the Kingdom and what Thai people see about their country. Come on King, get involved. Say something. Anything.
Three years ago, Harry Nicolaides wrote a novel that he hoped would strip away "the veneer of truth" from Thailand, where he was teaching at the time. Initially, "Verismiltitude" fell well short of its author's ambitions: Only 50 copies were self-published and few were sold. He drifted back to Australia, before returning to Thailand to write and teach.
Today, Mr. Nicolaides sits in a Bangkok jail on charges of lèse-majesté, the offense of insulting Thailand's royal family, in a brief passage in his novel about the private life of an unnamed crown prince. He intends to confess, repent, and seek a royal pardon.
"I've been demonized. I've got to play my role, to plead guilty and accept my sentence," he says.
Thailand's lèse-majesté laws are among the world's strictest, meriting jail terms of three to 15 years. Fear of the laws – as well as genuine veneration – has long drawn a veil over criticism of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning monarch, and his family. But a bitter struggle for power that is being waged, in part, in the name of the crown is testing these taboos.
In response, Thai lawmakers and security forces have sought to tighten controls by blocking thousands of websites, arresting activists, and drafting even tougher laws. A lawmaker in the ruling Democrat Party recently proposed raising the maximum jail time for lese-majeste to 25 years. The new government is also creating a 24-hour "war room" to scour the Internet for antiroyal comment.
Police say they are investigating a total of 32 cases of lèse-majesté, the highest number in decades. This includes BBC correspondent Jonathan Head, who was accused last year because of his reporting on Thai politics.
A female Thai activist was recently sentenced to six years in jail over a speech made to supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Another activist is in jail awaiting trial after drawing parallels in a fiery speech between the fate of the Thai monarchy and that of deposed dynasties in Russia, Nepal, and France.
Although it's rare for foreigners to be prosecuted, they aren't exempt. A Swiss man who defaced portraits of the king and queen was sentenced in 2006 to 10 years in jail, then swiftly pardoned and deported. Nicolaides is hoping for the same fast-track release.
Amnesty International is concerned over the rise in lèse-majesté cases here, says Benjamin Zawacki, a researcher for the organization. It considers people jailed for peacefully expressing their views as prisoners of conscience and has campaigned for the release of Sulak Sivaraksa, a Thai academic who has twice been prosecuted for the crime and now faces a new allegation.
In 2005, US-born Bhumibol discussed the law in a speech and said he could accept some criticism. That didn't stop the flow of cases. Defenders of the law say that it's essential to shield the royal family against personal attacks, as it can't sue for defamation.
Christian Science Monitor
Santika Owner Visuk Setsawad
The cat is out of the bag, as the investigation into the Santika New Year's Eve fire point their finger squarely at the local Bangkok police station which failed to stop the illegal enterprise.
Police yesterday issued arrest warrants for two executives of the Santika Pub for recklessness leading to deaths and injuries, and allowing persons under the drinking age limit of 20 into the illfated nightclub.
When George W. Bush Junior started that goddamned whining during his Last Press Conference, we wanted to crawl through the television screen and throttle him, right there, while he was still technically president. Tragically, current television technology doesn’t allow this type of full-immersion interactive Wii hate — hurry up, digital teevee! — so we’re still pretty annoyed 12 hours later. Hmm, target for late-night rage, where are you? Ah, Fred Barnes! A comical human dildo, wearing eyeglasses! What kind of ludicrous horseshit could the Weekly Standard executive editor deliver for America, in our Hour of Darkness? George W. Bush was actually a great president, that’s what!
Now, in reader-friendly comedy bullet-point style, we bring you Fred Barnes’ 10 Reasons why this stupid preppy bully, this vulgar power-mad imbecile who even failed at drinking, George Bush Junior, was so awesome:
Bravely insisted that random Arabs be tortured everywhere.
Boldly blocked any attempts to get a handle on Climate Change eight whole years ago, because what’s the rush?
Completely fucked over the U.S. Constitution and stacks of federal law, because why not, Nixon was probably a good dude!
Always 100% behind Israel, because Israel has never, ever been wrong about anything in History. It’s where Jesus lives!
No Child Left Behind: This stupid program of busy-work madrassa-style rote learning, this doofus Big Government federal intrusion into the lives of your five-year-old children as American literacy and math scores have dramatically plunged, is Bush’s “fifth success,” according to this alleged Conservative editor.
Bush “promotes democracy” by literally destroying the people and infrastructure of various countries with oil reserves. This is bold!
The Medicare prescription drug benefit program, which is a Socialized Medicine congressional program, is also a great victory of the conservative George W. Bush who wanted to take old people’s social security and put it in the stock market.
Bush installed two middle-aged wingnuts on the Supreme Court, which is a great victory against those stupid enough to be born poor or black or female. But just imagine if Bush’s real choice, Harriet Miers, had become his favorite fancy judge ever!
Barnes: “He strengthened relations with east Asian democracies (Japan, South Korea, Australia) without causing a rift with China. On top of that, he forged strong ties with India.” OMFG, so the Bush Administration managed to not fuck up some of the basic, standard, major relationships with American allies in Asia. GENIUS!
THE SURGE. Thanks to George Junior W. Bush bravely ignoring EVERYONE from his own father to every living American diplomat and general, Iraq is now a peaceful, free and prosperous nation and American Troops returned home as Victors during the Victor/Victory Parade of July 4, 2007. Good-bye, Terrorisms! Even Afghanistan is free today!
China is facing severe water shortages. Both Chinese and Western experts predict that in the next 15 years, China's shortage of clean water will create up to 30 million "environmental refugees."
This problem is particularly acute in northern China, where climate and geology have always made water a limited resource. No one seriously disputes that bold steps must be taken to forestall a crisis. But the question is whether Beijing's ambition -- to build a $62 billion series of canals to divert water from the Yangtze River in the south to the Yellow River in the north -- will actually work.
Yong's research has focused on the western leg, which is perhaps the most controversial. When I first met him in his offices in Sichuan in the spring of 2007, he had just returned from his midwinter expedition. The 49-year-old geologist, wearing a dark sweater and black jacket, looked thin and worn, as you might expect from someone who had just survived for two months on canned foods, occasional fresh-killed meat, and cigarettes. When I saw him again that October, for an update on his research, his cheeks were rosier and rounder. In a Beijing hotel room we huddled over his laptop to examine spreadsheets of data compiled from his trip.
Based on his research, he believes the government's blueprints for the western leg of the water-diversion project are based on inaccurate estimates of the volume of water in the upper Yangtze. If the diversion plan fails, the consequences of faulty engineering could be disastrous for downstream communities, including Shanghai, that depend on the Yangtze for agriculture, industry, and hydropower. Reduced river flow could shutter downstream hydropower stations, inflicting blackouts on millions.
The Chinese government has in the past unleashed disastrous plans with the best of intentions. Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward, for instance, set targets for enhanced steel and grain production based on fantasy, rather than science. Unable to meet unrealistic goals, local cadres felt compelled to fudge performance numbers, ensuring that inaccurate data and corruption would doom the effort. More recently, the government's Three Gorges Dam hydropower project -- an attempt to address the country's rapidly growing energy needs that was completed this fall – has run into trouble. Even government officials acknowledged, after the fact, that faulty geological planning along the dam's route had caused massive landslides and created the potential for an "environmental catastrophe."
It's only a single hole, but if you hook badly, you might find yourself retreiving your ball with the help of the above character. BTW, anyone seen "Crossing the Line" now on Comcast OnDemand? Via Sundance Channel, a great documentary about an American GI who crossed the border during the Korean War and remains there today, unrepentant.
Situated on a strip of land two and a half miles wide, the fairway at Panmunjom is not the only strange thing you'll find in the Korean Demilitarised Zone. Jerome Taylor reports
When he's not on duty, Sgt Corbin likes to relax with a quick round of golf. It has to be quick, though, because the only golf course on his base is a single hole, par 3. And it's no place for a stroll in the rough. The fairway is ringed by landmines.
The course is a well-driven tee shot from the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), the most heavily fortified border in the world. This strip of land - two and a half miles wide - divides the two Koreas.
And Camp Bonifas is the closest military base to North Korea. If war were ever to break out on the Korean peninsula, the camp and its 400 or so United Nations soldiers expect to bear the full brunt of a military assault from a million-strong army.
Sgt Corbin's rather exclusive, 192-yard hole was dubbed "The World's Most Dangerous Golf Course" at the height of the Cold War. The name stuck and the troops stationed there, most of whom are from the US and South Korea, are fiercely proud of it.
"Damn right it's dangerous," smiles Sgt Corbin, a giant of a man with cropped hair and the kind of square-cut jaw ideal for shaving commercials and the US Army. "It's completely surrounded by minefields. If you hook your ball into the rough, I can tell you, you're not getting it back."
A few weeks ago, he even managed to lose a golf club. "I headed down to the course and tried out a brand new club," he said. "If I'm honest I might have had a few beers to drink so I wasn't exactly on my finest form. Anyway I took a swing and the club flew straight out of my hand. A $400 golf club lying in the rough and I can't go get it!"
The 155-mile DMZ runs across the Korean peninsula like a gruesome scar, cleaving it in two. It has separated family, friends and sworn enemies for more than 50 years.
Barbed wire fences, tank traps, artillery guns and minefields line both sides, creating a powerful physical obstacle between the two countries. Europe's Iron Curtain would have paled in comparison with its east Asian counterpart. And whereas people power brought down Europe's ideological and physical barriers, the sheer scale of the DMZ makes its removal, at present, a distant thought.
As you leave the heavily fortified UN base (passing under the camp's welcome sign that ominously reads "In Front of Them All") and head deep into the no-man's-land of the DMZ, it's easy to imagine that Camp Bonifas is the start of some bizarre theme park where danger is the feature attraction and where reality verges on the absurd.
Monday, January 12, 2009
If Australians ever thought it was safe to get back in the water, three shark attacks in 24 hours at the height of the summer season - the most serious on a 13-year-old girl off Tasmania - have given them pause for thought. Beaches have been placed on high alert, and stretches of coastline have been closed to swimmers.
In the first attack, on Sunday off the northern coast of New South Wales, Jonathan Beard, a 31-year-old surfer, was bitten on the leg but managed to swim ashore.
A few hours later, off a popular beach on Tasmania's east coast, Hannah Mighall, a junior lifesaver, surfing offshore with a relative, was attacked by what is thought to have been a five-metre (16ft) long great white and, in a scene inevitably described as being straight out of the film Jaws, was dragged underwater several times.
Her cousin Syb Mundy, who was being called a hero for saving her, told the Australian newspaper: "She just flew up in the air and got dragged under - the shark had given her a nudge and she disappeared. She came back up and went down again a few times and I saw the shark come up out of the water."
An Indonesian ferry bearing 250 passengers sank on Sunday. Twenty-two people have been rescued thus far, but, according to the Associated Press, "Indonesians generally don't know how to swim, and the others on board were feared dead." Indonesia is an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, with more than 50,000 miles of coastline. So why don't its citizens know how to swim?
Because its primary ethnic group never took to the seas. Though there are thousands of distinct cultural groups in Indonesia, the dominant one—both politically and demographically—is the Javanese. Though the island of Java was, historically, an important stop on trading routes from Europe and India, the Javanese themselves weren't sailors. Agriculture—primarily rice farming—was far more important, leading to a culture that placed emphasis on the land rather than the sea. The ocean was traditionally seen as a dangerous, foreign place, which meant that swimming never really developed as a recreational practice.
Indian civilizations historically sprang up along hills and mountains and didn't place much emphasis on the sea. The Balinese, in turn, consider the sea to be a hazardous place; their most holy location, the mountain Gunung Arung, is located in the interior. This tendency isn't universal throughout Indonesia, however. The Bugis people of Sulawesi, for example, are famous sailors: The word boogeyman is said to derive from their name, due to their reputation as fierce pirates.
The influence of Islam—which is practiced, in one form or another, by 86 percent of the country's inhabitants—may also play a role. Muslims are expected to dress modestly in public, which means finding appropriate swimwear can be a problem. This difficulty may discourage some Indonesians from venturing into the water, although there aren't any specific religious prohibitions against the practice.
Why are Indonesian ferries always sinking? Old ships, overcrowding, and bad weather. Sunday's accident was only the latest in a string of recent maritime disasters. Hundreds of ferries crisscross Indonesian waters every day, many of them old and less than seaworthy. Though ferries fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transport, Indonesia's far-flung geography—covering more than 3 million square miles—and lack of financial resources means that some are beyond the reach of government supervision. Ferry operators often overcrowd boats and sail during unsafe conditions. Corrupt harbor masters, who sometimes accept bribes in exchange for sailing permits, make matters worse. Finally, December through February is monsoon season in Indonesia, which means heavy rains, strong winds, and unpredictable currents.
The U.N.'s International Maritime Organization has recently partnered with Interferry, an international ferry association, to address the problem of ferry safety in the developing world. A pilot program has begun in Bangladesh, with plans to expand into Indonesia. In 2008, to address mounting safety concerns, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono increased Indonesia's transportation budget by almost 65 percent.
Yahoo News. Bananas Kept Him Alive
Brunei is that sleepy Islamic nation on the north coast of Borneo that rarely gets much attention, but the always excellent Global Voices Online just featured a story about the
bloggers in Brunei. Check it out.
The King gets an award from a U.N. outfit concerned about intellectual property rights. Has the King been over to Panthip Plaza lately? Intellectural property rights are broken hundreds of times daily, so Thailand has no leg to stand on. And so why is he getting this award? For his efforts to stop intellectual property rights violation in Thailand? Ha.
His Majesty the King will tomorrow become the first recipient of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)'s Global Leaders Award. WIPO director-general Francis Gurry will present a medal to His Majesty at Prachuap Khiri Khan's Klai Kangwon Palace.
What happened to Samui? The same thing that has happened to virtually all beach resorts and islands in Thailand...the complete lack of government planning and oversight has led to an incredible mess. The fault lies not with the tourists, but with local and national governments who have failed to institute even the most basic of zoning laws or provide adequate roads and sewage systems. The easy way out is to blame the tourists, but it's the massive failure of Thai government on every level that is to blame for the demise of Samui and other once pristine islands. See Ko Phi Phi.
The first time I went to Samui was November of 1997. It was beautiful. Truly a topical paradise. I went there again in 2001 and I was still in love with the place. My most recent visit was December of 2008. The place looks like Pattaya south. So many bars and Issan bar girls... The people in the town didn't seem nearly as friendly or happy to see a tourist, there were only happy when they were selling a t-shirt or a wooden frog. When will the people of Thailand learn that their greatest asset is the beauty of their country and beaches, their hospitality and culture and not bars and bar girls?
It went downhill and it seems not to be able to stop either. My wife, 2-year old son, and I were down there in 1993 and it was nice but unfortunately we did not have pictures (I have to check my files).
We honeymooned in Patong in Phuket in 1987 and went to Phi Phi Island. Looking back there were real paradises--no big hotels, just nice fancy huts (with air?).
1997, we went to Koh Ngai and it was nice, too. 2003, we went to Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta Yai, and Krabi and they were still good. 2005, we went back to Phi Phi and Phuket after the tsunami, wife and son did not like it. 2007, we went back to Phi Phi again and Khao Lak (to help spend on the locals), but kind of disappointed. We were planning to go back to Samui but kind of felt that it was over developed, more crowds, and more expensive than Phuket. So we did not go.
Point is Samui is way over developed. Now there are having problems with garbage, sewerage, drugs, drought, etc. like Pattaya and Phuket. Foods are extremely expensive for locals in Phuket and Samui.
Overdeveloping for tourists is the real problem. Everyone rushes in to gain quick bucks. Tourism is being #2 income for Thailand, but government (both national, provincial, and locals) is not doing anything to balance it out with nature and long-term planning. Tourism industry should be sustainable for the long-term. Tourists are now going to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. As soon as Myanmar is open (with lots of islands), tourists will flock there and leave Thailand behind.
Bangkok Post Forum
A "Green School" in Bali, mostly for expat kids but also open to Balinese students. I assume this is somewhere up near Ubud, but does anyone have any exact info on this project?
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Photo by Carl Parkes
Photo by Carl Parkes
Photo by Carl Parkes
I once spent 6 months in India and some time in Goa, so I know something of the original hippies who fled the West for India during the 1960s and 70s. But did they witness the full solar eclipse in Goa in 1980 and then take a bus down to Panjim for Carnaval? I think not! Anyway, somebody has put together a documentary about the folks who arrived in India many years ago and rather than return home chose to stay in India and make a life. With the worldwide economic meltdown, who's to say they made a wrong decision?
Watch the Entire 90 Minute Film for Free at Snag Films Hippie Masala
In the 1960s and 1970s thousands of hippies journeyed East in the search for enlightenment, free drugs or a ‘pure’ life. Indian peasants assumed that a severe drought in the West was the reason for their migration. India’s holy men saw it, more accurately, as a search for spirituality. Most moved back to their home countries after a few months or years. Some stayed for good. HIPPIE MASALA shows aging flower children who, after fleeing Western civilization, found a new home in India.
Snag Films Hippie Masala
Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, has been summonsed to Pathumwan police station for questioning at 13.00 hrs on Tuesday 23th January 2009. The summons was issued as a result of a complaint filed by Special Branch Police Lt Col. Pansak Sasana-anund. Professor Ungpakorn has been accused by the above individual of les majesty. No details have been given of the allegations. Such details should be revealed after the initial police interview. Professor Ungpakorn has not yet been officially charged.
Professor Ungpakorn will give a press conference outside the Pathumwan police station at 12.30 and will also be available to answer questions after the police interview.
As a political science lecturer, Professor Ungpakorn has written a number of academic articles concerning the monarchy. These can be read on his web blog: http://wdpress.blog.co.uk/ and in his book “A Coup for the Rich”. The book was withdrawn from sale by Chulalongkorn University and Thammasart University bookshops. It can be down-loaded from his weblog for free.
The Monarchy has been quoted and used by various political factions in Thailand to legitimise their actions. The most notable cases are the 19th September 2006 military coup and the illegal protests by the yellow-shirted P.A.D., which included shutting down the international airports. Les Majesty charges in Thailand are notorious for being used by different political factions to attack their opponents. Many believe that this law is actually counter-productive to defending the Monarchy. This is why it is very important that political scientists attempt to analyse the real role and nature of the Thai Monarchy in an atmosphere of freedom and democracy.
Professor Ungpakorn is prepared to fight any les majesty charges in order to defend academic freedom, the freedom of expression and democracy in Thailand.
Since this accusation was filed by a Special Branch officer, the present Democrat Party Government should be questioned about its role in this and many other cases. The new Prime Minister has stated that he wants to see a firm crackdown on les majesty. In late December, the police filed allegations of les majesty against the BBC correspondent in Bangkok, Jonathan Head. Many other cases are also pending.
Rule of Lords has more:
Rule of Lords: Censorship and madness in Thailand
12 January 2009
Last month a campaign group in Thailand opposing Internet censorship released a list of 1,303 new website addresses that, it claims, are among those a government ministry has blocked.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand notes with concern that most of the pages on the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology blacklist are being kept under wraps with the aid of the courts and a new cybercrime law.
The list includes chat pages on the sites of local independent media agencies like Prachatai and Fah Diew Kan, which are both subject to constant monitoring and police harassment, and a couple from The Economist. But by far the largest number of pages is from YouTube and other video sharing sites.
What the banned addresses have in common is that, predominantly, their subject matter is the royal family.
The Economist articles, for instance, both blamed the royalty and antiquated laws protecting it from head to foot for much of Thailand’s current turmoil. “It cannot be good for a country to subscribe to a fairy-tale version of its own history in which the king never does wrong,” one said.
Although the magazine has not been banned in Thailand, the edition with the two offending pieces was not available on the stands after distributors reportedly declined to import or release it.
Even then, the Bangkok Post printed a bland rejoinder from a former foreign minister who unsuccessfully bid for the top job in the United Nations, without publishing any part of the article to which he was responding. Perhaps it expected readers to find their way around the online barricade so as to read what all the fuss was about anyway.
The list accounts for only some of the total number of sites in the ministry’s bad books. The newest minister has been quoted as saying that so far 2,300 such web addresses have been sealed off from the Internet-using public of Thailand, and that at least 400 more will soon get the same treatment.
The ministry has been devoting increasing energy to the blocking of sites for a number of years, and it was in October last year that a former minister announced the new firewall to stop content deemed critical of the royal family, which apparently takes precedence to pornography or material inciting religious or racial hatred.
But this latest round of censoring comes amid high uncertainty about the country’s future, and together with a flurry of other reports about attempts to curtail free speech in Thailand.
Within the last few weeks, the chief privy councilor reportedly asked the military to monitor and act against websites offensive to the monarchy, which the army chief had already ordered be done anyway; supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra were accused of committing an offence by placing the royal couple’s image against an inappropriate slogan, and a new criminal complaint has been lodged against a British Broadcasting Corporation correspondent for a report suggesting links between the palace and the crowds that barricaded themselves into Government House and the airports last year.
Then there are opinion pieces like the one in Matichon Daily last month urging friends or relatives of someone showing signs of listening to the king’s critics to take the person promptly for psychological treatment.
The suggestion that people showing less than undying gratitude to His Majesty might be deranged would be funny were the author – a former police general – not serious, not writing in a major newspaper and not speaking to deeply entrenched prejudices.
Whereas to people in the West the implication that critics of orthodoxy may be mentally unsound recalls the sinister practices of past decades in the Soviet Union and earlier periods of religious zealotry in Europe and the New World, in Asia it has its origins in ancient India.
Old tales with their genesis in some of the most stratified and hierarchical societies the world has known reiterate how ordinary persons who challenge the established order, who attempt to rise above or move outside the place assigned to them, go crazy in their folly.
These stories and their values continue to weigh heavily on people in countries that have inherited and interpreted them, including Thailand. After all, its king is still the great caste-assigned ruler the Maha Kasatriya, even if millions of his subjects would prefer to live in a country plugged into Sanook.com rather than one anchored to the Indus shoreline.
Bangkok’s blocking of YouTube, Prachatai and The Economist is as much about ancient madness as modern censorship. To get past the latter requires only a little ingenuity and any of the growing number of computer programs designed to befuddle the Net police.
To get over the former requires a rejection of the idea that there remains anyone anywhere who is wholly above criticism. This, surely, is an idea whose time has come and gone.
Rule of Lords via Prachatai
It's not too often I get to post a photo of Joe Cummings and his band The Toxic Rays along with promo for the upcoming film The Elephant King, but here it is. The Tonic Rays unexpectedly received a shot of fame and some great PR when a New York critic picked their debut album as one of the great undiscovered hits of 2008.
1. Jamey Johnson, "That Lonesome Song" (Mercury).
2. Ross Johnson, "Make It Stop! The Most Of Ross Johnson" (Goner).
3. Rose Tattoo, "Blood Brothers" (Wacken).
4. Rick Springfield," Venus in Overdrive" (New Door/UMe).
5. The Knux, "Remind Me in 3 Days..." (Interscope).
6. The Tonic Rays, "The Tonic Rays" (thetonicrays.com).
7. Woodbox Gang, "Drunk As Dragons" (Alternative Tentacles).
8. Carter's Chord, "Carter's Chord" (Show Dog Nashville).
9. Phil Vassar, "Prayer of a Common Man" (Universal).
10. New Bloods, "The Secret Life" (Kill Rock Stars).
Billboard Top 10
Joe has also been busy working on the film The Elephant King, filmed in Chiang Mai a few years ago and finally having its debut in Bangkok this week. Joe was the music connection and he will be at the opening, so wave at him on the red carpet. He might be throwing doubloons.
The Tonic Rays
Joe Cummings reviews The Elephant King in Bangkok Post
Photo by Carl Parkes
Photo by Carl Parkes
Photo by Carl Parkes
Tourists: Please quit bothering the geishas in Kyoto. They've got a job to do to survive, and it doesn't involve you. Nothing personal, but you're getting in the way. If you want to photograph a geisha, hire one.
Japan's famous geisha have reportedly complained of harassment from tourists, prompting local residents to patrol the area to protect them. Geisha claim they have been pursued by visitors grabbing at their sleeves and wanting to take their photographs. Residents and local business owners in Gion, the Kyoto district where most geisha live, have now volunteered to guard the streets to stop any trouble.
Nearly 50 million people visited Kyoto last year, more than any previous year. For many tourists, catching sight of a white-faced geisha in her beautifully embroidered kimono on the streets of Gion is one of the highlights of a trip to Japan. Some tourists seem to have the impression that Gion is a theme park, and geisha and maiko are walking the streets as part of a performance.
But geisha are an increasingly rare sight; where once there were more than 80,000 across Japan, there are now just 1,000. Wearing their traditional silk kimonos and high wooden sandals, the geisha that remain do not welcome being pursued as they travel between teahouses carrying out their daily tasks.
According to Japanese media, local government research shows that geiko (fully-fledged geisha) and maiko (apprentice geisha) are often surrounded or pursued by groups of tourists. "Some tourists seem to have the impression that Gion is a theme park, and geisha and maiko are walking the streets as part of a performance," an official of Higashiyama ward office told the Yomiuri newspaper.
An 18-year-old maiko told the newspaper that people silently approach her "and suddenly stand beside me to have photographs taken, so I get taken by surprise". In response to this, local residents and restaurant owners have volunteered to patrol the neighbourhood several times a week. They will intervene if a tourist is behaving in an inappropriate manner, the newspaper says.