Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Movie Review: Hollow Man

The plot of this movie can be summed up as follows:

A group of scientists working on a secret, government funded project, create a formula that renders animals invisible. Without seeking the necessary approval from the top, they advance to the final stage of their project and try the procedure with humans. They inject the lead scientist with the same serum and are successful. Now invisible, he starts killing people.

However, it is never clear why exactly he begins the slaughter of his colleagues who assisted in the research.

The invisible scientist, Sebastian Caine, is portrayed by Kevin Bacon as the typical, hard-to-be-around genius, preoccupied with more important things than being polite to people. Is this supposed to provide some reason for the audience to accept the sudden eruption of murderous rage?

A vague notion that the genetic change has brought along an unwanted side effect that sets off the violence is hinted at as well. That, or an overwhelming sense of untapped knowledge and newfound power that sends Caine off the rails. Also, Caine becomes aware of the fact that his former girlfriend who spurned him, Linda, (played by Linda Shue) and an assistant in the project, has taken up with another scientist on the team. The new boyfriend, Matt, (played by Josh Brolin), has always been a second rater to Caine in terms of scientific smarts but, like that old cliché that no doubt has some truth to it, makes up for that deficiency with better social skills.

Added together, these potential explanations don't wash.

Despite the absolutely threadbare plot and some of the relatively inexplicable actions, I still call this a movie worth watching.

First, the special effects are impressive. As with any number of movies over the years that have dealt with invisibility, the trick is always how to make it clear that the unseen individual is actually there. Here there are a number of ways utilized, including the gradual reappearance of a gorilla strapped to a gurney, and later Caine, their anatomies filling out as a reversal serum takes effect. More predictable circumstances abound where the invisible Caine is showered with water or blasted with steam or fire extinguishers and his image becomes momentarily visible, though the quality effects are still enjoyable to watch.

Secondly, the viciousness and refreshing lack of usual Hollywood sentiment are almost laugh-out-loud hilarious in an inappropriate kind of way. As mentioned, the sudden spiral into casual slaughter is a bit off in the overall context, but once it starts it is somehow entertaining. Probably not least for the oafish and annoying supporting cast did I find myself actually rooting for the suddenly psychotic Caine. If there is any doubt that the word "oaf" can apply to women, it is eviscerated here. Together with the pair of gullible blokes who are part of the research team, this collection of credulous louts are the least likely group of morons who would ever find themselves part of an elite scientific unit and their demise is welcomed.

Of course, Caine's ex-girlfriend and her new, second rate, pussy-whipped boyfriend are portrayed as Caine's nemeses and distinctly different from the other screw-ups. An inevitable final few minutes play out where things are wrapped up and the evil is vanquished.

Finally, being invisible is something that every person has pondered at some point. Inevitably, thoughts quickly turn to what deviant acts a person could partake in without any fear of being caught. Without wasting time on any monotonous deeper issues, this is the area the film quickly transitions to for a brief period following Caine's initial transformation.

Though Kevin Bacon's fiendish performance is the only one that is above average here, that he is somehow at his best when invisible and fondling the tit of one of the sleeping female scientists says it all regarding this movie. Trite dialogue and a meaningless plot are just some of the failings in a film that could have been much better but still provides an impressive display of cinematic special effects.

Released: 2000

Directed by: Paul Verhoeven

Friday, May 27, 2005

Thai Cop Gets Life for Double Murder

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The verdict is in for Somchai Visetsingha, the Thai policeman who murdered Vanessa Arscott and Adam Lloyd, and the sentence is life in prison.

The two Brits, pictured above, were vacationing in Kanchanaburi, Thailand in September last year when a late night argument with Somchai started in the copper's restaurant.

While what initially sparked the row is still hazy, it is clear that Somchai repeatedly shot Lloyd then mowed down Arscott in his car, dragging her 200 metres before getting out and shooting her execution style as she miraculously tried to crawl away.

Unfortunately, one only has to look at the underlying "logic" that instructed the judge regarding sentencing to determine that the punishment is essentially meaningless.

According to the judge, the only thing that prevented a death sentence was the fact that the accused confessed to the crime shortly after being arrested. Arrested after being on the lam for a month. Anyone who followed the trial will also note that the murderous pig retracted his confession and based his laughable non-defense around claiming a fictitious person committed the crime.

Someone that no one has ever seen or heard of. Actually, it would be hard for anyone to have heard of him, as the brainless cunt making the claim cannot even provide a full name, despite stating that he has known him for years.

Let's clarify, as is often necessary when trying to get your head around complete and utter horseshit glibly spewed in a nation guided by pure, undiluted, mind-numbing, head-up-the-ass insanity:

The murderer was spared the death penalty because he confessed to the crime despite having subsequently retracted his confession and then basing his entire defense around a lie that a retarded 3 year-old would have trouble spinning without being laughed at.

All is not lost for the murdering piece of filth. He quite possibly may appeal the verdict.

The option for appeal seems to be open for one reason...because he retracted his confession. Had he stuck to that confession, the one which allowed him to escape the death penalty, presumably any appeals would have been impossible.

It is for these reasons that I state the sentence appears meaningless. Will he actually spend some time in prison? Probably, as even the Thai public are a notch above lobotomized cattle in terms of gullibility and attention span. Just barely though.

The length of time served will be commensurate to how long the international press can keep this percolating on the backburner. If they are ready to ratchet up pressure as soon as some unctuous and gutlessly rationalized piece of nothingness is offered up as to why the sack of shit is being released early, there may be hope.

Even in the face of that, a short period of time served may be the final eventuality in this case.

That the reputation of Thailand has at least taken another deserved hit is undoubted.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Movie Review: The Machinist

There is a history of Hollywood movies in which the protagonist is balanced on the edge of sanity and the viewer is left to wonder whether the action as seen through the character's eyes is real or imagined. Not least for the reason that the tragic and perplexing ways of the human mind in this regard are not uncommon and provide just the kind of grist appropriate for intriguing and wrenching stories.

Still, in the last few years there has been a spike in the number of such dramas. To bolster my claim I'm not going to name a single one and am too lazy to hunt down the titles which I forget (please feel free to provide the names of these flicks in the comments' section.) (Ah at least the I remember the Russell Crowe movie, A Beautiful Mind.)

Perhaps it is these times of stimulation overdose on numerous fronts and the spectre of an insane and bloody few decades ahead of us that have spawned a mini-genre centered around the breakdown of the mind and the blurring between reality and fantasy. Or maybe the well of ideas is dry.

Regardless, The Machinist is one such film.

Something is very wrong with Trevor Reznik. He is a machinist who works on the grimy shop floor of a small tool and dye production plant in an unnamed, mid-sized, dreary American city. He hasn't had a sound night of sleep for a solid year.

For the voyeur in all of us, Christian Bale, who plays the lead, provides one of the most memorable cinematic examples of an actor undergoing serious physical hardships so as to add to the credibility of his performance.

Bales's emaciated frame is something to behold and will elicit misplaced guffaws from many. The director recognized the attraction of such a rare accomplishment and regular shots of the shirtless wraith feature throughout the first half of the movie. The rapid weight gain by the likes of De Niro in Raging Bull pale in comparison to the truly insane self-torture that must have been necessary to achieve this look.

Just what is haunting Reznik is the mystery. A clever viewer may perhaps unravel the events that have conspired to drive him close to the edge. As the director makes it evident that the "what" has been buried in the main character's own psyche, the audience is likely to be as surprised by the various twists that emerge as Reznik’s mind convulses and forces him to stare down the truth.

The self-loathing doesn't just result in his own misery, as much as he might wish. An industrial accident because of Reznik's lack of sleep and wavering sanity triggers the beginning of the end-game in his own internal battle to come to grips with his troubled recent past. Those around him shake their heads at his unlikely recounting of different events. As a result, not only does Reznik start to question his own take on reality but the viewer also wonders if what they are seeing through his eyes is real.

There are some good supporting roles including Jennifer Jason Leigh as the cliched caring whore of whom Reznik has deemed is the only woman he is worthy. Also, Michael Ironside, the shop floor victim of Reznik's carelessness, an always appropriate addition to noirish dramas such as this.

Flat lighting and overcast skies are featured throughout, and interior shots are washed in a green/grey hue to add to the sombre atmosphere. Close-ups of Bale as he screws up his mug in incomprehension and confusion are also regular features.

The film comes full circle in 2 ways. First, the arrival at the place where the movie began, a flash forward that started the freak show rolling. Most importantly, the ending marks a dilemma overcome by the main character as the cat and mouse game with himself reaches a conclusion. Though there is no carefree, pollyanna future projected as things draw to a close, there is at least a sense that the worst of a self-imposed ordeal is over.

While there is a good story doled out over the course of this gloomy and atmospheric film, the focus is undoubtedly the struggle of the main character and Christian Bale provides a grimacing, convincing performance. The power of the human mind to hold us to account regarding our instilled values makes for a strong underlying theme. Just as it's hard to draw a perfectly straight line from motivating factors that guide our thoughts and actions, so too the consequences of a fleeting few moments can be taken care of in ways we might never fully understand.

Released: 2004

Director: Brad Anderson

Monday, May 16, 2005

Game Over

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Another English Premier League season has come to an end.

Without participating in the fantasy football league, I can't say that I would pay a whole lot of attention to the games. By taking part it adds a whole new edge to watching and following the league. It's like having a small wager on each week's slate of games. Through being involved in the fantasy league I have become much more knowledgeable about the game, the teams and the players involved.

I improved considerably this time around, finishing 5, 245 out of 472, 148 as compared to last season when I was in the 13, 000 range out of about 300, 000 players. However, the overall number of team managers deserves a huge qualifier. If I remember correctly, only about 250 to 280, 000 managers were signed on from week 1 this season. Of those it's impossible to say how many joined for a lark and then never paid any more attention throughout the season, essentially voiding their team as a serious contender.

I'm guessing that probably a solid 100, 000 participants in the fantasy league were serious about playing and religiously made changes and tried to attain the highest scores possible.

Despite my fairly good finish this season I only managed to take second in the main league in which I took part (all players are ranked against all other players but you form separate smaller private leagues to keep things manageable with friends, co-workers etc.)

I had been leading in the private league for the past few weeks. However, a series of transfers I made for week 37, (which featured numerous teams with double fixtures) though paying modest gains, ended up costing me in the end. 2 players I had on my squad because of that important week 37, Reyes of Arsenal and Scholes of Manchester United, didn't play in this last week and lost me the top spot by 3 points.

A very enjoyable and free bit of strategizing that adds some excitement to every weekend's schedule of games. It will be kicking off again in a few months and as the time draws near I will set up another league and put out the call for participants. I still stand by the advice that I provided in this article that I wrote at the conclusion of last season's schedule, if anyone is interested.

Unfortunately the discussion forum after which I named the private league and from which I drew other managers has since turfed me so I will simply ask for anyone reading here to sign up as the time approaches.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Shit Wars: A Generation-Long Monumental Farce

An article that perfectly sums up my feelings regarding the over-hyped load of shit known as the Star Wars movies.

Thankfully I haven't partaken in watching these films since the first trilogy ended twenty or so years ago and I have no intention of doing so with this latest installment.

What an amazing phenomenon that has produced so many fawning aficionados and so many billions of dollars in profits all from such a mediocre body of work. I have a strong suspicion that even if I were to look back at the original, which of all of them has at least some merit, I would realize how average even that supposed classic was.

George Lucas has duped subsequent generations of gullible, non-questioning fucks who shell out for his latest Hollywood hype job because it's the thing to do. Even if people have a strong forewarning that what they are going to see is substandard crap they willingly go along for the ride.

I try to follow a strict code regarding movies I pay for, whether they're at the theatre or on DVD. If I haven't built up a sense that there's some entertainment value to be gained, usually through the word of reviewers or friends I trust, I simply won't waste the time.

The ongoing absurdity with the Star Wars franchise is perplexing simply because, as the writer of the article points out, save for the first movie, they have seen a sure and quick descent into utter shite. Yet these clowns suffering from arrested development go through this asinine charade every time a new serving of crap is dished up by the bearded, over-rated oaf Lucas.

It's the clinging to the spectacle aspect combined with being part of "something" and the romanticizing of the whole movie-going experience that drives these individuals. They keep the cachet alive of being part of a rabid core of super fans, through camp-outs to buy tickets, multiple viewings and obsessive collecting.

The "I don't get it aspect," that is always part of such movements as characterized by outsiders who scratch their heads at the excessive wackos, is guaranteed because of the uninspiring crap that is at the heart of their obsession.

Despite that, the myth of quality must be at least perpetuated to a degree by these clowns as each subsequent movie is watched by many millions. I'm hoping that this time people wise up and by their disinterest help turn this last load of tripe into the colossal flop it deserves to be.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


Taking a taxi in Bangkok can be a relaxing, almost surreal experience. Though on the front line when it comes to dealing with foreigners, as a group, taxi drivers are some of the worst English speakers about. However, only a modicum of Thai language is necessary to overcome the communication barrier and with directions delivered a peaceful ride is usually underway.

Most often, nary a word is spoken during the entire journey, nor is the silence interrupted as you pull up to your destination, hand the fare to the non-speaking driver and are on your way.

Unfortunately, if the driver does make attempts to converse, you can predict with remarkable accuracy the inanities that will flow.

"Where you from? You like Thai woman? You have Thai wife?"

If you answer in the affirmative, the shameless probing will continue...

"Where she from? Where you meet? You have baby?"

Sniggering, juvenile references regarding sex and the obligatory appearance of a fold-out brochure advertising some brothel are sure to follow. The outspoken type are invariably trolling for customers for such establishments, looking to earn some extra money on the side.

So it was recently that upon entering a cab I groaned to myself as the tell-tale signs were there. The rictus grin on the driver's face as he repeatedly looked at me in the rear-view mirror accompanied by those antsy mannerisms of someone ready to burst and the standard opening gambit..."Where you from?"

On cue, the talk proceeded to questions regarding my marital status and whether I had any children. Responding in the negative I then returned the question. The driver took the opening, a beatific grin on his face as he professed the love and joy that his 2 young children have provided.

His brief and genuine explanation on the pleasures of fatherhood in passable English was somehow interesting. From there:

"Where you go for Songkran?"

"Ahhh, I'll just stay at home this year."


"Mi mee ngen."

"I know that many foreigners also do not have big money. Same everywhere. Most people small money."

A bit of common sense from an unlikely source.

He went on to explain that he moonlights as a cab driver at weekends but spends his days in the military.

A first; a sane, enjoyable conversation with a Bangkok taxi driver.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Movie Review: Waking Life

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Every once in a while you run into one of those true raconteurs at a party somewhere (always seems to be in the kitchen.) The kind who can keep a slew of cunts enthralled as he raps out too-perfect set pieces on any number of topics. You know it's part of his trick bag and he's spun the same anecdotes dozens of times before, tweaking them along the way.

Strewn amongst the tales, which are delivered like a polished stand-up routine, are memorable lines that make you look at things in a different way. Maybe a product of the speaker's own mind or plucked from some pop-culture guru of the day.

But it doesn't really matter where the ideas came from...the cunt's entertaining and besides, he's better than most fools who can barely string together a few coherent thoughts let alone reel off a clever narrative.

Waking Life (2001, by Richard Linklater) is a unique animated film that features a series of such individuals, as they keep the main character (and audience) rapt and intrigued via their most passionate interpretations of the world around them. In essence this film is a series of vignettes, sewn together by the main character's search for instruction and insight on life, and ultimately, a way to escape the dream in which he finds himself immersed. The gentle and inquisitive nature of the young man (played by Wiley Wiggins) who may or may not be experiencing the last few moments of his life in a surreal, time-skewed final exit, somehow matches, and guides, the feel and ambience of this memorable film.

On first glimpse it appears to be a live-action movie in which artists then drew over top of the original footage. In fact, albeit in layman's terms, that's exactly what it is. It creates an interesting and powerful medium, flashing between varying degrees of a detailed adherence to an authentic representation of visual reality and simpler line drawings that symbolize the different subject matter and states of consciousness that the protagonist is undergoing. The animated format provides unlimited potential for various tricks and added effects, which are always used in interesting ways and add to the overall feel of this evocative film.

The various rants and smooth, world-view recitations are at worst, new-age claptrap that couldn't withstand a cursory challenge of the concepts presented. The film is not unconscious of this fact. The wide range of viewpoints presented in the various monologues will undoubtedly provide at least some ideas or new way of looking at things that will appeal to many different individuals. While scoffing at a few, I couldn't help but be drawn into subsequent rants and soliloquies.

The film eventually moves towards a discussion on the nature of reality and the power of lucid dreaming.

The overall tone of the movie, though created by the seemingly independent voices represented by different characters or types in society, is not averse to mocking some of those very exhortations. Or more accurately, the same characters question themselves and provide a few different avenues for the viewer to examine their words and thoughts. A left or right ideological bent is not necessarily provided as the standard against which to judge various ideas presented. But more concisely: have they come to their views in an honest way? Does their highlighted bit of wisdom provide either a helpful or destructive road map for life?

The repeated changing of venues and eclectic mix of different characters seems meant to remind us of the richness of ideas and alternate viewpoints in life. The celebration of the vast array and potential ecstasy of life, the joyous incomprehensibility that keeps us wondering and searching.

It reminded me of a television interview I saw with an author, now deceased, a few years ago. The interviewer was querying the venerated literary legend on the amount of written garbage that is produced and lapped up by the masses. Far from taking the bait and segueing into a rant that would, by comparison, highlight himself as brilliant, the author made the point that those creating such supposed "garbage" must be committed to their work for it to resonate with any audience.

This film is far from garbage but the point is that the same concept done in a less intelligent way would have fallen flat and come off as contrived and pathetic. Here, the outcome seems so in line with what must have been the film-maker's vision that you can only applaud and take it all in.

Like zombie flicks, Neil Young and pints of Guinness, I'm guessing that this is a love it or hate it kind of film. For me the movie worked in many different ways, the most important being that it made me think and feel. Among other things it reminded me to steer away from the constant attempts to degrade, especially about those who make an effort to get close. After all, what is a mate except someone who buys your bullshit and riffs off whatever you have to say?

Like a mirror-image of that distinct phenomenon that yanks have foisted onto the world, i.e. the "my-life-as-a-movie" persona, this is at times a movie like that...people rapping so solemnly and deftly that it could only be a movie...but wait a minute, it is a damn movie. It's the sense that so many for so long have been looking out of the corner of their eye, conscious that other cunts are eavesdropping on their deep conversations and marveling at their lives. Here it has come full circle. The "art-as-life" enigma rears its head again, and it is heartily welcomed.

Try as I might, I couldn't dismiss this film. The likelihood that it has sparked numerous conversations in dingy university housing flats amongst groups of 1st year liberal arts students is undoubted. I find myself wishing I could take a joyous and ethereal page from this film and transport myself to some of those youthful celebrations.

Cross-posted at: Blogcritics

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Have They No Shame?

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Nor proofreaders?

This is one of the most shameful, worthless pieces I have seen written in the Nation for a while.

In a country that is as far from being a meritocracy as possible, one of the most laughable examples of pure incompetence on display is in the local English language media. Those media outlets where Thais shamelessly parade their substandard English skills for all to see.

In many of these cases, I'm guessing that the fools are children of wealthy Thais, who after their time spent studying abroad, decided they were entitled and capable of writing or speaking English for a living.

The article linked to above is fraught with spelling errors, fucked up grammar and skewed syntax. A level of writing below what appears in daily newspapers from the west is to be expected but this is just plain careless, slipshod horseshit. It appears the moron who banged out the mistake-riddled load of tripe was intoxicated while writing it. The bloody fool apparently didn't even have the brains to run it through the spell-check on his computer.

I counted at least 14 errors, and that's not even including all the run-on sentences and, at times, almost nonsensical syntax. Here are a few examples:

While marketing can always be done, but as the history of Thai tourism development proves,

...either in terms of services and balance of demand and supply.
(We're waiting...)

The competition in Asia for wealthy tourists have never been more intense.

He warned that if there isn't any clear policy related to management and preservation, balancing the supply-and-demand and carrying capacity of tourism destinations, improving service standard, security and HR, the rapid growth of visitors will not be appropriate for an industry that has problems accumulated over many years.
(Rambling and with errors.)

And so many careless mistakes:

He cited for for example,

...he wrotes in a recent paper.

...the Hong Kong habour...

...known for his sytematic and long term thinking,
(Especially amusing when a word related to competence is spelled incorrectly.)

To be fair, there are some skilled Thais who write in both English language dailies in Bangkok. Though his name escapes me, a film reviewer for the Bangkok Post regularly posts entertaining, error-free pieces with fresh insight.

However, they've got to start doing something about shit like the article cited here. The individual in question must be informed that he doesn't have what it takes. He is a disgrace to himself and the Nation. Regardless of the wealth or status of his family or however else he finagled himself into this position, he is clearly unqualified to perform.

Let the Nation know that we expect more from them.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Drug Use in Thailand

Anyone with even a passing interest in international news or specifically regarding south-east Asia and Thailand, will be familiar with the notorious drug war launched a few years ago by the Thaksin government. Since that time there has been a second drug war and a 3rd one is looming. The condemnations are barely heard now as Thaksin has outlawed any reporting on the statistics regarding those killed. I've harped on this numerous times and I won't go into details again.

3, 000 killed extra-judicially in 3 months (with the laughable claim that only a dozen or so were done in by the police), many with identical envelopes of speed tablets and similar handguns found next to their corpses, sums up the brutality and underlying mentality guiding such campaigns.

Anyone who uses drugs is only ever a few steps removed from a dealer of some sort, regardless of whether a few joints or pills are being handed on to them by a friend who made the transaction.

The belief that being slightly removed from any dealing activities somehow insulates a person from the horseshit that is inevitably associated, is a sentiment I have long sensed from most drug users. While in many countries dealing is now the only illegal aspect of the drug subculture (at least regarding marijuana), in Thailand possession is still a very serious crime that can result in a length of sentence similar to that which a person would face for manslaughter in the west.

Once in the orbit of anyone who is providing you with drugs, you are beholden to that person to a certain degree. Add into the mix the fact that your judgement is undoubtedly skewed because of the usage and you are receptive to suggestions and requests from such individuals. If someone is leaning on them, what qualms would they have against using you in any possible way so as to lessen their potential plight or punishment?

There are numerous examples of Brits, Australians, yanks and other foreigners banged up in Thailand for getting involved in the drug scene. Bangkok's Bang Kwang prison is full of western fools who thought they were immune from consequences.

There is another larger tier below those incarcerated here, most of whom are doing time because of dealing or transporting across international lines, and those are common users. The sneering nonchalance from these individuals never ceases to amaze me. They are happy to tell anyone and everyone of the fact that they regularly smoke reefers during their stay here and assure their listeners that nothing negative will ever befall them because of it. They are the types who will casually spark a joint in the presence of others, oblivious to the fact that any foreigners in their midst are now open to extortion, jail time or deportation in the event that the coppers show up. Unlikely? Of course. Probably hundreds of such fools have come and gone, spent a good chunk of their lives here, engaged in illegal activities and left unscathed.

But those fools who are snared never fail to start mewling and are ever eager to try and trade on their western status, a far cry from the image they projected in the time leading up to their arrests.

Here are 3 observations I have made regarding those who want everyone to know that they are fearless hard-cases living on the edge in a gritty 3rd world country and are willing to use illegal drugs:

1. That they haven't been caught assures them that they never will be in the future. This circular bit of nonsense afflicts many people in various situations. It's a variation on ascribing a run of good luck or the absence of any catastrophe to some inert object or other superstition.

"Hey, this rock I carry around in my pocket protects me from tigers/witches/being raped in the ass etc."

"How can you be so sure?"

"Well, it hasn’t happened to me, so..."

2. They all boast of a connection to some higher-up. To believe all these fools, a person would have to come to the conclusion that all Thais involved in the police force and army are a bunch of malleable, wishy-washy pushovers who take an instant liking to whatever foreigner is in their vicinity and pledges their eternal help to them. This claim of a free get-out-of-jail card is almost to-a-person and truly beggars belief regarding the naivete of these fucks. Do these cunts truly feel that whatever feel-good, flippant comment was offered at some point in the past by some Thai whose path they crossed, some stiff who was/is related to some tart they're fucking, allows them to break the law with impunity?

"Ahh, you caught a foreigner and he was dealing smack? But he knows Tittifuck? Cut 'em loose! What the fuck were you thinking?"

I wonder if Bang Kwang is full of sad fucks who spend those eternal minutes wondering why their local connection didn't get them off the hook?

3. A compulsion to share information. Not unlike many small-time hoods, whose only claims that differentiate themselves from others, are the senseless risks they are willing to take in life. It's as if that added bonus of having others know is the only thing that makes it real for them.

That affliction which seems to take hold with lawbreakers the world-over and for which the authorities will always be grateful. To share their own self-perceived daring and callous nonchalance creates an ever-growing web of knowledge regarding their activities. Amongst which is undoubtedly some vindictive cunt, one who may even partake in the backslapping and simultaneously set in motion a gutless series of steps in hopes of seeing the braggart nailed to the wall.

Are these fools so lacking in awareness and understanding of the human condition? So inexperienced in the ways of the world that they don't know the masks that people wear? The sociopaths, the sly insincere individuals, the lovers of mayhem, the manipulators amongst us? That no person can ever really know another?

Far from gaining a sense of schadenfreude from the plight of anyone who ends up in prison, I wish they would get their heads out of their asses before it's too late.

Cross-posted at: Blogcritics

Thursday, April 21, 2005

A Subject of Inexhaustible Interest Regarding Thailand

Here is a lengthy article on Thailand regarding...what else...that subject which has seen more ink spilled about it than any other single aspect of this country; prostitution. The writer claims to be a jaded denizen of Sukhumvit soi 4 but at times offers up tripe similar to that from which he claims to be offering a respite. Being closer to the action doesn't necessarily provide sharper insight or more believable hypotheses.

He starts off well, debunking some statistics that could be dismissed by a moderately trained chimp. The problem is, he adds to the mix his own litany of absurdities and hard-to-believe claims that he likely gleaned from local bullshit artists who bolster and reinforce a take on things that sits well with his view of the world.

Among the gems: that Thai prostitutes clean the feet of paying customers before they shag them. Now, In my time here I have never paid to have sex with a woman but I have talked to plenty who have. Never have I heard this unlikely tidbit, something that many scum would probably gain a hearty and patronizing sense of pleasure from if it were true. Before receiving a traditional Thai massage your feet will be washed by a young girl whose sole responsibility is just that, only to allow the masseuse to avoid touching filthy foreign feet. It's not out of the realm, but again, I have never heard about this regarding prostitutes.

Another claim, that does seem plausible and has a ring of truth to it, is that Thai prostitutes are generally free agents and not beholden to pimps. Of course, there are reasons that drive them towards the profession but an abusive, controlling individual who skims off most of the profits and keeps the girl desperately reliant, is not a sense many have gained from the girls working at the beer bars of Bangkok. While the writer of this article, like many before him, makes this observation, a significant portion of the piece is devoted to that almost unquestioned issue of human "trafficking" in the region. I don't know the extent of this or how true many of the claims are but the free-agent phenomenon and the trafficking horror stories just don't seem to jibe. How and why are those being trafficked out of Thailand so easily snared and in apparently such large numbers while an even larger number of girls remain in Thailand, unfettered (except for the slobs they endure.) Even on occasion hitting the jackpot, marrying a farang and, as the author states, returning to their villages with "no social disgrace attached."

Fuck!! No stigma attached to a poor Isaan girl who is in any way connected to a farang? This alone tells me that the writer is relying on input from those he thinks are hip to the scene. Like many minorities in the west who are more conscious of their differences than the majority they feel threatened by, poor Thais are as hyper-conscious of social stigma as anyone in Thailand and usually more so. The foreigner-with-a-Thai-woman-must-be-a-prostitute canard is one that is alive and well amongst the lower classes.

The writer does have questions for assorted NGO's about the reported statistics of such trafficking but this core contradiction of relative freedom on one hand and the international trade in flesh on the other, doesn't cause him to ponder this dissonance to the degree it deserves. So instead of bracing those who potentially benefit from such half-truths and the belief that this supposed murky underworld exists, he dances around the issue. I'm guessing it's because he is likely part of the world of NGO's himself.

Some more problems I have with the article are regarding the claims of wages paid to rural Thais. Most importantly, are these figures based on unemployed people as well, which, if grouped with those who are working, would drag down the average. His figures are that 1/3rd of Thais make less than 2 dollars US per day. This would be the equivalent of 80 baht per day. Poverty and exploitation of the poor is horrific here and I personally know of numerous people being screwed in various hell-on-earth jobs. However, I do take issue with the specifics. I have never heard of anyone in the last few years getting less than 100 baht per day for a grueling 10-12 hours of physical labour. That in itself is beyond sickening as far as a true crime against humanity and I am only quibbling over a difference 20 baht but still, it seems articles like this take liberties in order to ratchet up the *gasp* factor. He further claims that 1 in 6 make less than 1 US dollar a day. Less than 40 baht per day? 10 million in Thailand at this rate of pay? I don't believe it unless there are some credible sources and statistics provided to back it up.

Another matter concerns the core of scum who gleefully trip on shamelessly using, exploiting and discarding young vulnerable Thai women and who perpetuate the myth of them as cagey vipers so as to absolve themselves of any guilt. There is no doubt these men do exist. But as usual, a uniformity and a kind brotherhood of such people is implied and stated outright, which imbues that sinister and easy-to-loathe pall that adds to the appeal of such an article, a kind of sensationalism which the writer himself takes issue with.

However, he makes a few valid points throughout. One I have long echoed, and that is the fact that prostitution is far more accepted and thus indulged by Thais and other Asians than it is for western tourists and expats. The garish-street front bar/hook-up joints and the strange and pathetic acting out by the core of western fools who do partake gives many a sense that perhaps the numbers are greater than what reality would show.

A generalist piece which offers no new insight, arrives at few conclusions save for the obvious, and at times is maundering and unfocussed, it is still worth a look.

Cross-posted at Blogcritics

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Book Review: Deep Survival--by Laurence Gonzales

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How and why do accidents occur? Are there some people pre-disposed to react in a more efficient and clear-headed manner when the going gets tough? Does thinking through a potential situation before it ever happens provide any hope that a person will respond correctly upon such an eventuality? Or, despite having vague ideas about potential emergencies playing out, without having ever experienced them, are humans absent a mental map which can guide them to safety?

These and more are some of the questions that are addressed and themes that run through a fascinating non-fiction book by Laurence Gonzales entitled Deep Survival. Gonzales has spent a lifetime undertaking and writing about extreme sporting activities, risky professions and dangerous human behaviour in general. In this book he brings together his years of experience in studying and observing the reactions of people faced by such stress and in particular he deconstructs numerous accidents that have occurred to various people along the way. The question that has always intrigued him and forms the underlying theme of this book is: why exactly do some people react better than others and in the process survive any number of frightening near-death experiences brought about by the vagaries of chance, the chronically underestimated forces of nature and plain stupidity?

The results as instructed by his years in the field and supported with loads of research from various psychologists, doctors, survival experts and the testimony of survivors themselves, would have many self-proclaimed hard cases second-guessing their own boasts of how well they would handle themselves when the shit hits the fan.

One recurring observation that comes home again and again after a thorough analysis of numerous screw-ups in the wilderness by weekend warriors and hardened individuals with a lifetime of experience under their belts, is the power of the human mind.

There is no good pre-indicator that tells us which individuals will handle themselves better under stressful and dire situations in the wild. A teenaged girl is just as likely to respond in a way that will increase her likelihood of survival as opposed to a seasoned outdoorsman. This is not just some quirky unfounded claim but something borne out by statistics as detailed by Gonzales and backed up by the various experts in the field whom he interviews in the book. However, look closely at a person's thought process and analyze their actions under stress and certain "eerie similarities" exhibited by survivors do emerge, such as the fact that rule-breakers are more likely to come out alive as opposed to the rigid rule-followers of the world.

While individuals normally can't be assessed accurately on first glance as to how well they would respond in tough situations, there does appear to be statistical evidence regarding demographics. Children under the age of 6 actually have one of the highest rates of survival when being lost in the wilderness and this is even more proof regarding the power of learned processes. Children at that age are not cognizant of the idea of "being lost," thus the realization and subsequent panic never dawns on them. If the mind has not already been conditioned to live in the world of urban convenience we have constructed, which is highly forgiving and induces certain patterns of rewards and expectations, then it appears survival in the wilderness is more likely.

Myths, such as various aboriginal peoples of the world being inherently more attuned to the ways of wilderness, a long-held belief that fits into the hazy, karmic law of compensation that so many fools ascribe to and that somehow soothes our consciences, are tossed aside. That certain individuals from such populations are more skilled in survival in the bush and have a greater feel for direction than others is not in doubt, but this is simply from an awareness and subsequent practice from an early age.

Gonzales spins a highly entertaining and readable narrative in which he deconstructs numerous extreme sporting accidents and highlights common themes upon which he then extrapolates with various theories and personal observations. Every chapter has its own series of mishaps and tragedies told in a way that pulls no punches...never mocking the sometimes incredibly naïve, ill-prepared fools, yet always being brutal in the assessment of how and why they fucked up.

No matter how easy it is for a reader of these tales to shake their head in disbelief at how brazenly obvious the impending disaster was, Gonzales always drives home the point that this is the very nature of such accidents. Just as in everyday life while performing some trivial task, the same litany of factors influence every decision while rappelling down a steep slope. From peer pressure, the desire to impress, laziness, tiredness, daydreaming...the reasons are multitude. Of course the potential consequences are much more deadly but that is readily apparent. That you haven't ever experienced such a situation and thus are lacking the mental map to respond and which inhibits your ability to survive is what is key.

Or as Gonzalez opines on the word 'experienced': "(it) often refers to someone who’s gotten away with doing the wrong thing more frequently than you have."

Just as a few conditions need to come together to set the stage for disaster, the absence of such conditions convince many that they know what they are doing when in reality they have been blundering along at some weekend past-time from the beginning, lucking into their string of “successes”. That more fuck-ups don’t occur is what is so surprising.

This book is jammed with shrewd insight and well-articulated hypotheses and observations. It's one of those books that takes you a while to read—not because there is any lack of desire to keep plowing through the pages—but because it continually hammers you into a reverie and forces you to stare off into the distance and ponder something that the author has so perfectly highlighted.

For some, Gonzalez may go a bit too far in the early going as he establishes the concept and poses the questions that make up the running theme of the book. Nothing he writes goes so far as to be called filler, and though extrapolation is the stock in trade of non-fiction writers, in an attempt to ensure the big idea is lost on no reader, he sometimes adds more than necessary in those early chapters. It is clear that this is a topic that is dear to his heart, something so intimately intriguing to him that he has essentially devoted his life to experiencing, observing and writing about it.

Another thread running through the book is the author's own personal experiences as well as those of his father, who flew during WWII as a bomber pilot. Usually a clear writer of crisp passages and memorable lines, only occasionally does he add unnecessary throwaway lines such as:

"When I first heard that story, I almost wept, because it seemed so much like me and my father."

Scant criticism for a book that, overall I highly recommend. Like all good books it leaves you wanting more.

The subject matter is one that will resonate with most men, at least, and probably a growing number of western women as well, for whom an ever-expanding swath share the aspiration to be men. As the famous saying goes, the greatest compliment one man can hear from another is praise for performance in battle or on the field of play. Everyone likes to fancy themselves as possessing at least a modicum of physical ability and for many, competitiveness is a motivating factor behind everything they do. With prosperity available to most apes of average intelligence from western countries, the number of people turning to extreme sports for recreation and the opportunity to prove themselves outside of their bland office existence will continue to grow.

Gonzalez not only deconstructs numerous survival incidents that stand alone as entertaining pieces but also provides some incidental as well as prescribed advice on how to best prepare your mind for such encounters. Through those compelling mishap post-mortems, patterns necessarily emerge and some conclusions can be drawn, though Gonzalez also shows reverence for those unknown factors that remain a mystery. Ultimately, every person will only ever know their true reaction if and when such a difficult situation arises. As Gonzalez so concisely points out on a number of occasions throughout, you can only hope that you’ve spent a lifetime building up a solid core that will help you to respond.

Or, as one such maxim from the ancient philosopher Epictetus states, plucked from numerous Gonzalez includes and which demonstrates that the enigma of human survival has always intrigued and driven mankind to further understanding:

"On occasion of every accident (event) that befalls you, remember to turn to yourself and inquire what power you have for turning it to use."

Cross-posted at Blogcritics

Monday, April 11, 2005

Movie Review: Requiem For A Dream

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For any piece of writing to be effective it necessarily has to keep the reader intrigued. Writers of non-fiction will inevitably stray towards sensationalism and exaggeration so as to make the piece interesting enough to be read to its conclusion. Things are simplified and packaged into a nice theme that fits into the one thousand word format.

The temptation and thrill at being able to create worlds and having others take their renditions as accurate has driven many writers to blur the line between fact and fiction. There are other reasons as well; to ease the pressure of deadlines, avoid annoying things like research and other types of legwork and increase the writer's personal success. The parsing of reality into the most objective and truest representation possible is usually not the one that will result in the most entertaining read though typical praise would lead a person to believe otherwise.

Take war as a subject, for example. Anyone convinced of the authentic nature of a piece about the horrors of war is in reality congratulating the writer on his skill in constructing an entertaining narrative. That the reader has been affected by the writing, focussed more on a particular issue and come away reeling at the inhumanity of it all is probably a good thing. Had fiction-like tools not been used to strengthen the narrative and ratchet up tension, the reader may not have felt compelled enough to continue reading to the end.

It's not that elements of fictionalized stories don’t exist in the real world. It's not that most people when queried wouldn't accept that any particular example of non-fiction necessarily reflects the writer's own bias and a desire to be heard. Most would admit to a healthy skepticism regarding anything they read but at the same time we like to be taken along for an entertaining ride. If we gain something that we think instructs us on life and provides a one-up on others, then all the better.

Loathe to admit that they're the ones providing all the angles in an attempt to give more credence to whatever unique slant they're attempting, writers will introduce composite "friends," unnamed sources and supposed insiders. All of whom take the place of real characters. Sure, many of these are real people providing authentic insight and supporting a thesis, but liberties are often taken in this regard.

Like war, stories about the dangers of drugs almost inevitably end up romanticizing the ordeal. Newspapers and magazines are replete with suburban redemption tales with the survivor highlighted as someone who has truly accomplished something. There seems to be therapeutic value or just the plain thrill of having your own life romanticized by a skilled writer that seems to move people to want themselves featured in such a piece (often referred to as a tot piece--triumph over tragedy.) What steps do people like this actually take to alert the media that they've ridden out the requisite personal horror and are now ready for the final step towards recovery, to have their personal lives smeared all over some rag in a sensationalistic piece?

Do they simply place a call to the paper's switchboard and are then transferred to the writers on staff known for spinning such tales? Perhaps there's a name bank with various categories, rape, drug addiction etc., and when a particular tragedy becomes the flavour of the day, one of the fools is contacted.

Just as a chronic lender of money is the one least likely to pay it back, so the individual with the compulsion to see the intimate details of their life aired in public may provide skewed insight. Perhaps they've studied such accounts and tailored their own story to follow a similar formula. They might recognize that the facts or solid logic expressed usually don't resonate as much as a particular imagery, a particular stylistic pattern that is more easily consumed by the masses.

If these are problems inherent in non-fiction, then the much more prevalent examples of fiction storytelling must surely be free from such obstacles.

However, while those obstacles may not be there, the end result might be similar. It is just that prevalence that makes all forms of fiction--and most prominently, film and television—-the single source for providing insight into moral dilemmas for many people in society. While ostensibly the same level of diligence doesn't apply as it is "only entertainment," audiences may in many cases attach as much significance to works of fiction.

You would receive a head-shaking, breath-exhaling, monumental scoff from most if you suggested they have their world view shaped by cinematic renderings. Yet those same people are likely willing to give their validation to certain, well-done pieces; "a realistic war movie," "a shocking look at the effects of drug abuse." That they themselves have never experienced such things and have no true barometer of authenticity is only proof that their seal of approval is simply a nod towards the director's ability to produce what they conceive as a convincing piece.

Or maybe that's elevating some experiences to such a plane that even undergoing such an ordeal yourself would leave you wondering if it was authentic...

All of these considerations are part of that age-old question; "Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?" and were part of my thoughts after having watched Requiem for a Dream.

This film slipped under my radar back in 2000 when it was released but in recent years I have heard plenty of feedback, the kind of buzz reserved for those gut-punch movies that leave you reeling and are usually proclaimed authentic for that reason alone.

It's a film based on the book by the late Hubert Selby Jr., a yank writer who was influenced heavily by the so-called beat writers of the 50's and 60's. Take the Kerouac stream of consciousness style and fuse it with some of Ginsberg's matter-of-fact/celebratory musings on the junky scene and you have some idea of Selby's style. Filmed a few years before his death, Selby even has a brief cameo appearance in the movie. Selby was known for looking at the dark side of life and exploring human pain to its fullest. This film follows that tradition and is based in a fitting locale.

Anyone not familiar with the US through travel or time spent living there has still developed a hazy mental image and feel (however inaccurate it may be) for various locales in that country due to a lifetime of watching Hollywood movies. Coney Island is a place that always evokes a strange mix of dreary imagery; lost hope, yearning, a not unappealing setting (the water and Manhattan skyscrapers in the distance) scarred with the ever-present dilapidated amusement park rides and boardwalk.

The kind of place where blue-collar workers end up—the ones who can't afford the more expensive neighbourhoods of New York city. Add in retirees who lived modest middle-class lives and the usual collection of directionless youngsters in every bleak, dead-end town who can never quite get it together to get move on to bigger and better things once they have grown, and you have the Coney Island of my mind's eye.

This then is the setting for the film, one that charts the course of 4 lives and the impact of drug addiction upon them. Pain is sublime, pure and all encompassing in this ordeal of a movie, where there is never any doubt regarding who will win—the narcotics (actually heroin in 3 cases and a nasty diet pill addiction in the other) or the characters involved. The only matters in question are how sweetly wrenching their downfalls will be, what horrific fate awaits each and whether any sense of hope at all can be snatched from the depths of despair.

In essence this film is comprised of 4 character sketches in self-destruction as induced by dependence on drugs. None of the minor obstacles thrown in the way of the characters are overcome so much as embraced. There are some not unexpected twists to the semblance of a plot but again, the downward trajectory is never really halted or in question.

The story centers around Harry Goldfarb (played by Jared Leto), his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly), their friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) and Harry’s mother, Sara (Ellen Burstyn).

The 3 youngsters descend into their heroin hell with a brief respite as a half-cocked plan to get some money from dealing so as to fulfill their dream the title refers to, disintegrates and their slow-motion suicides are back on track.

The plight of Sara Goldfarb is slightly different from the others though no less painful to watch. A widow who lives in a dingy flat and spends her time watching surreal daytime game-shows, she receives a call from a telemarketer convincing her that she too can appear on television. This quickly becomes her entire reason for living, her dream, and in preparation for some anticipated future TV debut, she finds a doctor who prescribes a teeth-gnashing, manic cycle of amphetamines to help her lose weight. Ellen Burstyn does a good job in her role and will evoke a great deal of sympathy and empathy from most viewers.

The scenes cutting to and from the game-show she watches together with the drug-induced illusions in her flat become a bit monotonous at times though overall the effect is quite good.

In fact, there are good performances all around in this film. All the actors squeeze some undiluted pain into their deliveries, including some scenes that must have been just as difficult to pull off as they are to watch. However, in a film that, as mentioned, is character driven, with the exception of the aging and pitiful Sara, there isn't much insight into what brought these individuals to this point in time and what makes them such vulnerable specimens, ripe for the corrosive effects of addiction. They each get at least one chance to pour out their souls to each other in the calm before the storm, as they stroke themselves into pain-numbing bliss with each subsequent hit, but where did this capacity for weakness and self-destruction come from? Maybe it's in all of us to varying degrees and the most sensitive and naive will succumb to the evils of drug use more easily if we choose to take that route.

Jenniffer Connelly’s was another performance of the 4 that struck me. She has established herself as an actress skilled in capturing the emotional pain of a character and distilling it into some riveting performances (for another similarly impressive role, see her in The House of Sand and Fog.)

The theme that runs through this is simple and stark: DRUGS ARE BAD. No matter what your intentions, once you choose that path you're fucked. It doesn't come off in a condescending or lecturing way in the are 4 people and what happened to them, take it as you will. Of course people like this who fall prey to the insidious side of drugs do exist and are easy to find, just as are the recreational, functional user type.

The results as detailed here play into the well established pop-culture story-line of heroin as the nastiest of the nasty and can't help but romanticize the lives of the characters to some degree no matter how gritty and merciless their ends are. It's the slow-motion suicide, do something up right even if it's self-destruction, no subtleties to be had motif that I'm guessing has resonated so well with the MTV generation. As a result this film has almost reached that cult-like status, on the must-watch list of everyone who knows they're hip to the hardcore realities of the world.

Director Darren Aronofsky does a good job here with gloomy atmospheric scenes with plenty of close-ups of tortured faces and some unorthodox (though such methods are becoming so common as to be less and less experimental) uses of the camera to capture various emotions and moods. The climax is the culmination of a relentless march towards total misery and leaves the viewer hammered senseless with nary a shred of hope.

There is not much in the way of feel-good emotions to be gained by the viewer here, except to marvel at the depths of others' despair, feel the weight of empathy and be thankful for your own trivial problems in life.

Now! Where can I score some of that insanely powerful junk so as to induce a wrenching downward slide into hell that will result in my being eulogized by jaded hipsters for generations to come?

Cross-posted at: Blogcritics

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Book Review: The Turner Diaries--by William Pierce

I remember years ago working behind a bar in an attempt to cobble together some money and move on. The dreary work had few appealing aspects but the number of wackos you ran into was always good for the entertainment value.

One day, a freakish acquaintance of one of the stiffs who worked there bounced in, eager to relay the details of his intriguing life. He started speaking to his mate and I shamelessly listened in from a few metres away. He started off with a breathless flurry of recent developments, including praise for a recent book he had begun reading. He had spoken barely a few words on the subject when I knew without any doubt to which book he was referring. His sparse initial comments would have been barely enough for most to register a guess but somehow I knew beyond any doubt.

It was his mannerisms and desultory banter together with touching on what he would claim was a life-changing "literary" experience. I groaned to myself and muttered, "not another cunt on about The Celestine Prophecy." You may remember this title from a few years back and may have even read the bland prose yourself.

Take The Celestine Prophecy with its conspiracy laced yet ostensibly benign, new-age horseshit and infuse it with an insane dose of paranoid fear and hatred and the sinister mirror-image result is The Turner Diaries, an underground novel that has been the favourite of inbred, white-trash gun loving yanks for years. The kind of fools who are genuinely frightened that their right to own guns is at risk, that the hordes of immigrants flooding their country is part of a sinister plot orchestrated by "the Jews" to take over the world.

The popularity of such novels is not surprising. Their underlying premise is one which appeals to those unwilling or unable to explore issues and seek real and genuine knowledge on any given subject. They pander to every fear and desperate anxiety that exists in society and draw in countless wide-eyed, awe-struck individuals because of the fact that, of course, there are numerous instances where governments do lie, and undertake duplicitous, murderous acts and some things do always remain unexplained. Buying into such books and the surrounding subculture allows those people to bypass any effort necessary to acquire objective knowledge from a wide variety of sources and makes them feel they are in possession of the truth. At the same time they gain sense of belonging and feel part of a group who are hip to what's really going down.

I first heard of The Turner Diaries quite a few years ago, the name uttered with smug satisfaction by members of various hate groups, white supremacist organizations and fanatical gun owners on talk shows or internet discussion forums. There was always the cachet of secrecy; the fact that it was never available by usual means such as at book-stores, instead sold at gun shows and traded at clandestine meetings by breathless oafs bristling with the anticipation of an armed showdown with government forces al a Waco, Texas.

With the ease of obtaining such books via the internet, any mystery surrounding shit like this has been washed away. It was never widely available simply because it is such an all round terrible piece of work. If this is the best these clowns have to offer then the powers that be truly having nothing to be worried about regarding armed revolt.

Told in the 1st person in a chronological way loosely adhering to a diary format, it tells the story of a future revolution spearheaded by those truly intelligent gun-loving wackos who knew it was coming all along. Telegraphed in the most straightforward way, there is absolutely no evidence of any skill or technique that contributes to good storytelling. Obviously no one ever told this fool about the most basic premise in fiction writing; show don’t tell. Of course, just as previous crap such as The Celestine Prophecy could barely be referred to as a novel, this is nothing more than a rabid right wing tract.

Ham-fisted, laughable symbolism delivered in the most obvious way so as not to miss the studious glare of the intended audience is rife throughout. Every targeted person is warranted to have attained their position or success by underhanded means and of course sports an obviously Jewish name.

There were no bricks handy so we equipped ourselves with blackjacks consisting of good-sized bars of Ivory soap inside long, strong ski socks...

We parked about a block and a half from Berman's liquors, around the corner.

The causation fallacy is in wide use throughout this poorly written load of tripe. Non–sequiturs abound in which some social ill is mentioned and then a phrase that encapsulates one of the fears that motivate these fools is casually tacked on, the simplistic association enough to stoke the rage of the brainless cunts most likely to be rocked by such stunning revelations.

To ensure that no one misses any of the connections here, the government and any type of officialdom is referred to as the System while the pure crusaders are part of the Organization.

The paucity of imagination is further evidenced in the passages where violence is wreaked on those who are supposedly responsible for the plight of the honourable, hard done by working class caucasians. Their rights and sense of morals have been destroyed by the menace of liberal ideas as delivered by the sinister Jews:

Someone walked up to him while he was waiting for an elevator in the lobby of his office building, pulled a hatchet from under his coat, cleaved the good Jew’s head from crown to shoulder blades, then disappeared into the rush hour crowd.

Again, unintentionally farcical. A person can't help but wonder if this was intended as pure satire. However, further reading makes it clear that this fool's brain nearly short circuits when he feels it is time to unload some more bilious hatred. The almost incoherent and nonsensical results are truly absurd:

She gained an understanding of the unique historical role of the Jews as the ferment of decomposition of races and civilizations. More importantly she began acquiring a sense of racial identity, overcoming a lifetime of brainwashing aimed at reducing her to an isolated atom in a cosmopolitan chaos.

The stock in trade of all raving conspiracy theorists is utilized throughout in which a shred of truth is taken and then wildly extrapolated to feed the paranoid nightmares that these clowns thrive on.

The bare semblance of a plot maunders along with various acts of terrorism as provoked by, what else, the US government decision to ban gun ownership as dictated by the appropriately named "Cohen Act." Interspersed with the rabid anti-Jew, anti-liberal, anti-immigrant mantras and platitudes that guide these wackos, it is amazing that this ponderous tale apparently helped to motivate Timothy McVeigh to bomb a US federal government building in Oklahoma in 1997.

What is interesting is the similar language and emotions regarding the indignant and long suffering common people and the need to strike back against governments as compared to the rationale spouted by the current brand of Islamic terrorists who are effectively fucking with yanks. If even a fraction of the injustices that the US government and its military have perpetrated on the world were experienced by the yanks whose lives are made easier by such actions, then perhaps these raving lunatics would actually gain enough adherents to see their twisted dreams come to fruition.

It must be assumed that those who go for this horseshit would be sympathetic to the cause of the Islamic terrorists who struck on 9/11. The rationale could be almost be taken word for word, albeit with different underlying motivations:

That is, can we justly blame what has happened to us entirely on deliberate subversion, carried out through the insidious propaganda of the controlled mass media, the schools, the churches and the government? Or must we place a large share of the blame on inadvertent decadence—on the spiritually debilitating lifestyle into which the Western people have allowed themselves to slip in the 20th century?

And another passage which should serve to demonstrate the admiration these individuals logically should have for bin Laden and his boys:

That is he didn't understand that one of the major purposes of political terror, always and everywhere, is to force the authorities to take reprisals and become more repressive, thus alienating a portion of the population and generating sympathy for the terrorists. And the other purpose is to create unrest by destroying the population's sense of security and their belief in the invincibility of the government.

They both hate the US government, Jews, liberalism and turn to thousands of years-old fairy tales for comfort. A closing portion of the book even foretells, in yet another awkward and almost orgasmic passage, the death that liberated Palestinians will eventually wreak on Israelis with the help of the enlightened geniuses depicted in the book. Though I'm guessing there is some appropriately specious reasoning which allows Muslims to be just another group they have included in their net of blame and hatred in recent years.

This rambling screed is not much more than a vast wet dream for what such paranoid lunatics hope will eventually transpire and in that sense they must be insanely jealous of what Al Qaeda has accomplished.

As if sensing that his wild tale is not hitting the mark, the author keeps inserting meaningless asides just so as to introduce more laughable predictions of what a dystopian future awaits a US that has been poisoned by liberal values. The old "large groups of Blacks roaming the streets" is ratcheted up to include a future where gang-rapes by Blacks in school classrooms is the norm. The simplistic ham-fisted rendering is the sign of a talentless fool and a likely indication of how he rates the lowlifes likely to lap up this garbage.

The hypocrisy is so complete it is laughable; evident in every claim made by the narrator against the tormentors of caucasians and then perpetrated times 10 by the supposed heroes of the tale. Most striking is the constant demonization and degradation of Jews and spluttering passages where they are casually slaughtered. Every frightened ignorant claim ever made against them is floated here, coming from every and all angles, never infused with even a shred of logic and all pointing to an invincible and superior group of people. A group of people this fool is obviously insanely jealous of and in fact would like to emulate, for the narrator seeks to be part of an elite group that rules the world, just as these scared fools are convinced Jews do at the present time.

Fraught with contradictions, fallacies, inconsistencies and obsessive and continual lies, all soaked in an invincible paranoid fear, it is not surprising that this absolute load of shit appeals to those 2 ignorant groups of yanks for whom these qualities are also the motivating forces: bible beaters and fanatical gun owners.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Bangkok Subway Not Ready to Re-Open

The recent subway crash in Bangkok and the subsequent fallout is a perfect example of current PM Thaksin's modus operandi regarding any issue that requires government input, guidance or at least comments that reflect some understanding of the problem. Hours after the crash, Thaksin insisted that it was because of "one incompetent driver." Strange how that one driver has caused the system to be shut down for a full 2 weeks with things set to re-open on February 1st.

Following the accident, those in charge of the new underground may as well have taken out full-page ads in the local newspapers, declaring


Instead they have engaged in a series of farcical tests on the system, ostensibly to instill confidence in the public. This article in the Nation this morning clearly demonstrates that any person with a modicum of common sense and the self-preservation instinct will steer clear of these damn fools once the death trap re-opens.

The hint of sheepish collusion or simply embarrassment that they call these clods their fellow countrymen seems to have resulted in a slightly understated headline to this article. "Drill misses Target by 4 Minutes" seems a bit innocuous while suggesting some slight falling short of some sort of target. Inherent in the tone of the article is the collective gulping of those two-bit incompetent hacks sensing that they may just have to brace someone in charge and ask some tough questions. Or maybe not.

Further reading indicates that the drills were simulated emergency responses to a fire and the 4 minutes represents 80% over the accepted maximum time limit.

This alone indicates the system is not ready to re-open...full fucking stop.

One sentence within the article caught my eye. Never having worked as part of any type of emergency response unit, perhaps this is the correct way to proceed if a real fire were to happen on the subway system:

"All gates to the station were closed except one for allowing rescuers to enter."

Is slamming exits shut actually the logical way to proceed, assuming they were acting exactly as they would in a real fire? What about the cunts trapped underground? Wouldn't it make more sense to man those gates to prevent any people entering but also giving stray passengers an opportunity to escape? As opposed to providing a dead-end where fleeing apes can curl up in a ball and suck in the smoke that also has nowhere to go?

Coming so close to the February 6 vote, Thaksin will have no choice but to play his usual game of repeatedly insisting something to be true together with the steadfast declaration of some absurd time line. This is "the emperor has no clothes" mentality taken to bizarre levels, able to reduce any onlooker to a gibbering and incredulous fool.

Thaksin could cake his face with human shit and brazenly walk into a room full of reporters and unctuously claim that he is the epitome of sweet-smelling, infallible excellence. If someone dared to question him, he would screw his face up in a look of disdainful and petulant annoyance, the dried shit would crack, he would lick his lips and declare that no one correctly understood the problem and people were out to get him.

Fully unaware of the role that media should play in a democracy, Thaksin sees any legitimate questioning of his actions or words as being equivalent to an uppity employee daring to move beyond fawning sycophancy.

Let's see if anyone in the mainstream media will call the fool on this one.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Accident on the Bangkok Subway

It was bound to happen. In a culture where the ability to think clearly and independently is almost non-existent, the possibilities for a fuck-up in a complex, technology-based system are infinite. Upon reflection, it isn't surprising that the early weeks were error free while everyone was keyed up and determined to do a good job as the plaudits were flowing and the media cameras were clicking. Six months down the rail and already the monotony of routine has set in. Still, pointing to such a minor disaster as this as a true indicator of a collective cultural character while catastrophes in other nations are just one-offs, isn't completely fair. has been interesting to watch the post-collision narrative play out on this one. Immediately following the crash on Monday, the standard line that was thrown out and quickly repeated by many was "computer malfunction." This response was possible for 2 reasons. Of course there could have been some truth to it, or as part of what is a common trait of Thais, do whatever necessary to shift the blame for your own fuck-up. The logical result of this gutlessness is blaming the vast modern subway system of which those employees working within are probably scared shitless.

The screeching sounds heard a few hours later were the cogs in the skulls of the handful of semi-intelligent assholes at the top. It dawned on someone that if word got out that the computer system was faulty on a multi-billion dollar system that took 10 years to build, then there may develop a slight aversion amongst the public to travel on the new subway.

The story-line was quickly changed and advanced by PM Thaksin to "it was an incompetent driver." It seems incompetence may have been in the air as apparently passengers remained trapped in the train hammering to get out as staff scurried about for up to 20 minutes to find the keys...

Anything any government official says here is completely and utterly worthless and it can be assumed it is a lie. If the same cunts staffing the same government agency encountered the same fuck-up every day for 10 thousand years the assholes would never figure out that coming clean and trying to solve the problem is the best route to take. As well as providing the public with the truth that would instill a sense of confidence that those at the top may have a shred of competence, it would also instruct those citizens as to what course of action is best for them.

So, what the government says regarding this situation, as with everything, is meaningless. Of course, the supposed facts coming out could be true but it's better to look at any reported information as just an insane tale from the mouths of timid, colluding fools. If it were a contrived effort to stave off the inevitable truth that a more all encompassing incompetence once again ruled, the ham-fisted concoction still employs aspects that they would naturally expect to be part of any such mishap and thus included so as to appear plausible.

Namely the complete inability to think independently. This quote from an article from The Nation sums it up (again whether it is truth or fiction is irrelevant):

"The driver told the control room that he had released the B09 brake, and one official at the centre repeated what he had said without considering whether it was the correct thing to do," Prapat said.

"They worked like parrots – just repeating what others said without thinking about whether it was the correct procedure."

After a number of years here, I realize that the default reaction of most Thais when presented with a situation that is out of the ordinary, i.e. an impending fuck-up, is instead of taking precious seconds to think and respond, they will seek out input from someone else. In my experience, almost without exception, they trust anyone but themselves in any given situation. They are desperate to be told what to do so as to eliminate the need for thinking.

I know...I started this piece with the claim that it's good to avoid generalizations and we should look at the details of each situation. It's all speculation at the moment as my default reaction upon hearing about something like this is that a cover-up is taking place. The secondary batch of things being reported do seem to have a ring of truth. However, as I said, any fabrication would likely include such an angle, as abandoning of personal reactions and desperately seeking help from others or the mindless carrying out of insanely inappropriate orders guaranteed to cause mayhem are not uncommon here. It has likely occurred with many Thais in different situations and is therefore a familiar part of such tragedies.

"Where ignorance reigns, life is lost," is an apt truism that is proven time and again though thankfully nobody perished this time around. Unlike most traffic accidents involving a reckless bus driver who "fled the scene on foot," "was seen high-tailing it away from the accident," "sprinted into a nearby field," "was observed bug-eyed and yipping like a scared dog as he legged it down the street while injured and maimed passengers begged for help," at least this option was not available as the driver of the train in question was pinned inside.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Book Review: America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction--by Jon Stewart and the writers of The Daily Show

From Jon Stewart's latest book: restore dignity to the current justices of the Supreme Court of the United States by matching them with their correct robes

This book reads like a lengthy satire magazine. Not surprising as it is a volume of political wit from Jon Stewart (and his staff of writers), the acclaimed current yank master. But it even looks like a glossy mag (cum bizarro world instruction guide), with loads of amusing inserts: pie charts, graphs and humourously bastardized words and pictures of famous philosophers and politicians. Photocopies of these clever additions (see above) are likely already adorning dorm room walls and cubicle separaters throughout the land.

Aimed at the college crowd and those under thirty who make up the apparent loyal and sycophantic following of Stewart's, they will hail this as another example of his brilliance. Having not yet seen his acclaimed television program I was free from any bias. After finishing the book I'm guessing his real talent is on the glass tit, though there are stll plenty of laughs to be had here.

While his brand of humour and delivery is near genius levels according to his fans, it is impossible to develop any type of real narrative using this style in print. Quips, one-liners, droll observations and the ever popular insertion of a current or recent pop-culture reference into an historical situation, morphing the 2 into amusing scenarios replete with double and triple entendres, are quickly established as the few gimmicks in his shallow but never empty trick-bag. As is the habit of fake quotes attributed to historical figures in which they use the word "fuck," which wears thin after the first half dozen times.

The grandiose claims that have adorned the public declarations and unctuous volumes, as well as the smarmy politicians who have peddled lies throughout history as highlighted against the true shit-caked, hypocritical reality, is the ostensible theme of the book. In fact, the real motif that eclipses that and exists throughout is...the collective wit of Stewart and the group of professional writers who assisted him. Not a bad substitute considering how skilled they are.

Ranging from "Democracy Before America," through the other nine blandly titled chapters covering various aspects of the US government system and closing with "The Rest of the World," the over-riding schtick is that it is meant to be a wacky textbook or helpful guide. The additional instructions supplied to "teachers" for classroom activities are often hilarious as are some of the graphics (for some reason the send-up of the Presidential library had me gagging with laughter) and the running gimmick allows for the loosely connected stand-alone chapters.

The huge heaping of sex-related jokes throughout will have the self-righteous bible beaters outraged. The ones who won't even read the book but will be extremely perturbed by its presence and popularity and will see it as another opportunity to try and dictate to others. As usual these clowns and their insidious, shrill pronouncements will backfire, as demonstrated by the load of free publicity gained when Stewart's book was most recently yanked from the shelves of some libraries in Mississippi as a result of the picture that appears at the beginning of this review.

Ruthlessly hammering and mocking everything in sight, where nothing is above being laughed at, is Stewart's stock in trade. This is something good, a mentality I share. Various ethnic and special interest groups all have their foibles and absurdities slammed, just as every lying duplicitous, hypocritical sack of shit politician is eviscerated, regardless of which party or ideology they have whored themselves out to...a true delight for the anti-PC crowd.

Before reading this book I knew it would inevitably be rated against the other two widely accessible left-leaning political humourists of yank origin—Michael Moore and Al Franken. Though much different in style, the similar target audience makes the comparison worthwhile. All generalists whose prose styles could be handled by a 12 year-old, they have convinced a new generation of adult readers that to have breezed through their offerings is to have a solid grounding in the issues of the day. Of the 3, I would peg Franken's Lying Liars book as the better overall volume in terms of readability, style and effectiveness. Moore's substandard polemics which play fast and loose with the truth, employ sweeping generalizations and are lacking in solid research are the poorest of the lot and a 2nd rate companion to his entertaining documentaries.

Stewart's first publishing endeavor is as consistent as it is limited in its scope. Unlike Moore and Franken, Stewart doesn't offer up the requisite "underneath all my sarcastic venom I know us yanks are still the best," type of jingoistic crap. A hip, jaded version of that underlying mantra most yanks casually accept, served up to appeal to as many as possible and avoid offending the tender sensibilities of those whose cries of "traitor" could affect future sales. Thankfully Stewart avoids this type of horseshit altogether.

With Stewart's obvious wit and shrewd analysis of politics and popular culture, this book could have been much better than the one-dimensional result. How about a longer set-up beyond the 2-sentence jokes that are rattled off? Another indication of his full conditioning by his work on the tube and a recognition of the average attention span of those most likely to be reading his book. Of course, business smarts in catering to a pre-existing audience and a desire to sell as many books as possible likely instructed the end product as well.

No doubt Stewart and his flunkies are astutely skilled in lampooning any subject they choose and rarely does this book descend into that "too clever by half" territory. His television audience will love this book, though curiously the aping of the steady delivery of one-liners that works so well on the tube left me feeling frazzled. The rapid-fire skewering of individuals and riffing on different subjects doesn't lend itself to being "the kind of book you can't put down." I would recommend this as a bathroom accompaniment or a beer and pizza-stained frat-house prop for referencing the humorous lines that appear throughout. Always being amazed at how different writers progress in style and scope, I look forward to future attempts by Stewart (though a compilation effort he most likely had a great deal of input) that move beyond a format he has already mastered and is best suited to television.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Rankist Generosity

As the aftermath of the tsunami continues to play out, Stalin's famous quote about a million deaths being a statistic while a single death is a tragedy couldn't be more true. The over-riding sentiment that seems to be attached to most stories is the rankist element that is part of any comment on individual or government sponsored contributions to the relief effort. There are also the accompanying desperate efforts to conjure up language that will express the feelings of shared grief but they just seem to...fall a bit flat.

What is tangible are the insinuations and outright scolding heaped on various nations and entertainment and sports superstars who haven't ponied up what is perceived to be an adequate amount. Those assertions crackle, are real, are something we can really associate with.

The one-upsmanship from various governments around the world can't help but be beneficial as the real amount of aid continues to increase. A closer look reveals that many strings are attached to various pledges. These dazzling promises and high figures may in part be based on low-interest loans and might well not materialize in full.

Donations made by various stars and duly advertised may also have ulterior motives, including an enhanced public image. Again, if the end result is more assistance, then it's great to see every overpaid thespian and steroid bloated pro athlete run scurrying to make a donation prior to their next interview so they can let the true figure roll off their tongue in a nonchalant way and appear genuinely moved.

Woe is the fool like Paradorn Srichiphan, a wealthy Thai tennis star, who made such a pathetically sniveling donation (10, 000 baht , about 250 US dollars) in comparison to his earnings, that he will most certainly pay for it in a real monetary way. The 10, 000 US he could have easily given will be eclipsed by the income loss he is sure to suffer as a result of this huge PR disaster.

Argue the rightness or wrongness of goading wealthy individuals into coughing up, but the fact is that failing to see in advance that this expectation was developing, means that a fool like Paradorn is ill-equipped to deal with all aspects of celebrity status. Such stars occupy an unreal position, are paid unreal amounts and thus are expected to demonstrate unreal and exaggerated displays of generosity. These individuals are given a great deal of leeway by most of the adoring and sycophantic public and an image of benevolence will solidify their standing. Come across as an ungrateful cunt and the public will happily join in as the media hammers them into remorse and humiliation.

Part of the whole post-disaster posturing is a sociological study in group-think. Is it a spontaneous outpouring and world-wide reaction or can people be routed into pre-existing emotional gatherings that they can latch onto? Is "the media" a sentient force that dictates our reactions or simply a reflection of our collective feelings?

Quite often humans do have the power to dictate how others will respond in any given situation. For example, in the case of a man trying to seduce a woman. Most fools recognize that females are the half of humanity who give off signals and indicate whether they are in any way interested in the attentions of a particular slob. Still, any tit who maneuvers into the position of being alone with a tart should realize that he holds the license for the negation of the woman's inhibition. All he has to do is issue the license and eliminate any simpering gestures of hesitation or that sickening coyness that some assholes from western nations exhibit around women. Avoid any behaviour that hints at and lets a woman buy into that contrived image of a pure virginal chastity and she will instead opt for that which she really longs for. To be stapled to the mattress with a rigorous and energetic shag.

The world-wide reaction to the tsunami disaster is most striking then, as compared to the response towards the slaughter that continues in Iraq. As succinctly pointed out and asked by Terry Jones (the same member of the Monty Python comedy troupe) in a commentary in the Guardian; what has contributed to such vastly different amounts of attention and monetary aid despite the similar toll in lives? Is it the sudden ferocity of the tsunami? The instant destruction? The belief that perhaps we could have been victims if we had vacationed at a different time and maybe, just maybe those foreign cunts with the strange culture and guttural language in Iraq might just have deserved what they got if only a tiny bit? The lack of media coverage (surely)?

Speaking of Iraq, the Guardian continues to demonstrate why it is the top online newspaper bar none with this account from an Iraqi film-maker in the days after the much touted route of Fallujah by US forces back in November. A bleak, macabre landscape greeted him, soaked with misery, desperation and rage. Most noticeably he asks, where are all the bodies of the insurgents the yanks claimed to have killed? He also guarantees that a civil war will kick-off in the very near future.

Maybe any amount of assistance for Iraq would open our eyes to just how horrific things are there at the moment and would highlight our own culpability in the massacre. Comparatively, our spontaneous and generous outpouring towards the countries affected by the tsunami strengthens our image of a world full of caring and just souls in which we all play an important role.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Balcony Time

Watching someone you know from a distance while they are unaware can be interesting. They may adopt certain "while-alone" mannerisms that are absent when in the company of others. It's an odd voyeuristic sensation and you can almost imagine yourself as you must appear when next to the individual.

Some people seem slightly at odds without a constant sidekick to validate their existence while other cunts thrive as lone...cunts.

There are many experiences that are part of the vast catalogue of deviancies and otherwise pedestrian activities that confirm the interest humans have in the lives of each other. One such enjoyable respite at the end of a long day is kicking back and observing the anonymous fools in the building opposite from you with a set of high-powered binoculars.

Back in my home country, I was housed in a vast complex of chicken coops where every po-faced cunt went to and from their own cramped hole with nary a smile or nod of acknowledgement to their fellow fuck-ups. A series of buildings faced each other at various angles but were far enough away that brazen surveillance attracted little or no attention.

Together with the realization that most people likely pay no heed to the possibility that someone could be watching them as evidenced by open curtains, windows etc., the other observation that registered strongest was the complete and utter banality of most cunts' lives (not too mention the fucker with nothing better to do than observe those stilted and dreary lives.)

While the obvious hope was to catch a balls-out fuck session, the main activity that I witnessed was mind-numbing repetitive behaviour. A surprising number of people pace about their small enclaves or engage in similar rote activity such as lurching up from their position in front of the glass tit, disappearing momentarily and then repeating a few minutes later.

End-of-the-day balcony time in Bangkok is an enjoyable contemplative few minutes alone with a few jars. There are no binoculars as the buildings are too close together to allow any covert observation, though you can still view the comings and goings of a few others who enjoy the same peaceful time alone. Though there is a fair amount of traffic on the soi below, it rarely breaks the peace because of the habit most Thais have of engaging in reckless driving without ever mashing the horn.

Everything becomes enveloped in a kind of slow-motion haze. Such abstractions as laws, manipulative horseshit perpetrated by others and all manner of pointless emotions disappear. It's especially therapeutic if undertaken just as the quality of light is staring to change. From the flat light of late afternoon to dusk and then suddenly the different world of Bangkok at night is upon you.