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Month: January 2009 (Page 1 of 4)

Time-lapse video of flying at night

I like this time-lapse video (embedded below) of a flight across the US. ((Transportation-related gem from several years ago: a video of a man driving from LA to New York. For more time-lapse videos, see this collection over at World Hum. My favorite is this time-lapse video of the northern lights))

The clip begins in the US’s midwest and ends in San Francisco. According to the person who created the video, the light from the cities below was illuminating the clouds.

(Via Kottke.)

Wise Kwai’s best Thai films of 2008

Vidoeblogger Thomas Crampton has posted a couple of interviews with Curtis Winston, author of one of my favorite blogs about Thailand, Wise Kwai’s Thai Film Journal.

In the first video, embedded below, Curtis tells us all about the Thai film industry.

And in the second video, Curtis gives us his list of the top 10 Thai films of 2008.

For a re-cap of the second video, here’s Curtis’s post with a summary of his top 10.

The curious case of Masal Bugduv

Some snips from a very funny story in Slate by Brian Phillips: “Fictional Moldovan Soccer Phenom Tells All: Inside the ingenious hoax that fooled the British sports press.”

On a typical weekday, the English soccer press devotes itself to unsubstantiated rumors, manufactured scandals, and bikini pictures of players’ girlfriends (who seem to roam the earth together in a giant conjugal yacht, like the Beatles in Yellow Submarine). This week, however, thanks to an ingenious hoax that took in the Times of London, the soccer press has been engrossed by Moldova. Specifically by one Moldovan teenager, who is not, as it happens, a real person.

Earlier this month, the Times ran a feature called “Football’s Top 50 Rising Stars,” which featured at No. 30 a 16-year-old attacker named Masal Bugduv, whom the paper, never one to fear irony, described as “Moldova’s finest.” A bright future seemed to fill Bugduv’s windscreen. The young player had been “strongly linked,” the Times said, with a transfer to the London club Arsenal, had already earned a mention on the popular soccer news site, spawned excitement in online forums, and been portrayed as something of a savior by the magazine When Saturday Comes, which introduced him as “one bright spot” amid Moldova’s nationalist strife.


So, who was this clever hoaxer? Whoever engineered the prank left behind a calling card in the form of the fictional Moldovan newspaper Diario Mo Thon, described in one of the concocted AP stories as “the top sports daily in Balti.” Diario means diary in several Romance languages, and mo thón is Irish for my ass—just the kind of nested, polyglot ass pun that every good imaginary-Moldovan prank requires.

It got better. After SoccerLens blogger McDonnell broke the story, Bugduv fans in Ireland noticed that the player’s name was a phonetic twin for m’asal beag dubh, which is Irish for “my little black donkey.” A second Irish ass pun, sure. But “My Little Black Donkey” is also the name of an Irish-language short story by early 20th-century writer Pádraic Ó Conaire. And the story, about a man tricked into overpaying for a lazy donkey based on some vivid village gossip, can be read anachronistically as a parody of the culture of soccer transfers, in which the flaming rings of hype around a player—about how good he is, where he might go, how much a club might pay for him—often seem to overwhelm the minor matter of what he does on the pitch.

Thanks to A for the tip.

John Updike, dead at 76

John Updike died yesterday at the age of 76.

Here’s Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times:

Endowed with an art student’s pictorial imagination, a journalist’s sociological eye and a poet’s gift for metaphor, John Updike — who died on Tuesday at 76 — was arguably this country’s one true all-around man of letters. He moved fluently from fiction to criticism, from light verse to short stories to the long-distance form of the novel: a literary decathlete in our age of electronic distraction and willful specialization, Victorian in his industriousness and almost blogger-like in his determination to turn every scrap of knowledge and experience into words.

Thai media coverage of the Rohingya refugee issue

It’s interesting to note that the Rohingya boat people story is receiving scant coverage in the Thai media. This despite many stories in the international press that have drawn attention to the accusations over the last week. And yesterday, a CNN investigative report (which I mentioned here) showed new images that seem to confirm that hundreds of Rohingya people were abused and then towed out to sea with little food or water and cut adrift.

But Bangkok’s two English language newspapers are running very little material on the situation. The op-ed section of today’s Bangkok Post, for example, contains the following:

  • The Post‘s editorial about Thai Airways’ financial troubles.
  • A Bloomberg column about the media in South Korea.
  • A guest column about what 2009 might hold in store for Myanmar (Burma) — although the subject is domestic politics, not the plight of Rohingya refugees. (This is not a criticism of the column; the Rohingya issue didn’t fit the scope of the piece.)
  • A Post column about the level of customer service offered by Thai retailers.

Today’s op-ed section in the Post does, however, contain this Reuters column, which is about PM Abhisit’s connection to the Thai military. (The column doesn’t appear on the Bangkok Post Web site, but it’s available via the Reuters link above.)

The following passage helps illustrate the issue of media coverage — or lack thereof — of the Burmese refugee story here in Thailand:

In the short-term, political fallout for Abhisit is likely to be limited, with much of the domestic media portraying the incident as legitimate defence of the borders against potential “Muslim terrorists” in the insurgency-plagued far south.

Similarly, defending foreign Muslims has never gone down well with Thailand’s nationalist and overwhelmingly Buddhist voters, and Abhisit’s star is riding high after the turbulence of 2008, with some commentators even comparing him to Barack Obama.

Yet the episode, and his knee-jerk shielding of the army, has echoes in Thailand’s recent history and makes him look ominously like his nemesis Thaksin, condemned as a serial rights abuser during much of his time in office.

After 80 Muslim demonstrators suffocated to death in the back of army trucks in the southern village of Tak Bai in 2004, Thaksin refused to reprimand the army, and even suggested the men died due to weakness caused by Ramadan fasting.

At the time, analysts explained his comments as an attempt to appease generals even then showing signs of the dissent that would lead to a coup two years later.

In Abhisit’s case, it looks to many analysts more like repaying a favour.

Meanwhile, over at the Nation newspaper, the site doesn’t appear to be running a single story about the Rohingya issue.

And finally, if you haven’t seen the CNN video from Dan Rivers, it’s worth a look. You can watch it here.

Burmese refugee abuse claims: new photos from CNN

CNN has obtained new photos and other information that seem to substantiate claims that the Thai military mistreated Burmese refugees. One image (see the CNN link below) shows what appears to be a Thai navy vessel dragging a boatload of the men out into open water, where their craft was cut adrift.

CNN‘s Dan Rivers: “Probe questions fate of refugees in Thailand

Bedraggled, hungry and dazed, the refugees arrived on the shores of Thailand after fleeing one of the most repressive governments in the world — the hard-line military regime in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

But a CNN investigation has uncovered evidence that for hundreds of Rohingya refugees — members of a Muslim minority group — abuse and abandonment at sea were what awaited them in Thailand, at the hands of Thai authorities.

Extraordinary photos obtained by CNN from someone directly involved in the Thai operation show refugees on their rickety boats being towed out to sea, cut loose and abandoned.

One photo shows the Thai army towing a boatload of some 190 refugees far out to sea.

For days, accusations have been carried in several regional papers that the Thai army has been systematically towing boat-loads of Rohingya refugees far out to sea and setting them adrift.

The army denied it, and the Thai government has launched an inquiry.

CNN’s investigation — based on accounts from tourists, sources in Thailand and a Rohingya refugee who said he was on a boat towed back out to sea — helps to piece together a picture of survival thwarted by an organized effort not just to repel arriving refugees, but to hold them prisoner on shore, drag them in flimsy boats far out to sea and then abandon them.

Three tourists recently voiced concern to CNN over what they had seen — and in some cases photographed — near Thailand’s tourist areas.

One tourist provided CNN with photos last week of refugees detained by Thai authorities on a beach near a tourist site, with the refugees prone on the sun-bleached sand while guards stood nearby.

“Whenever someone raised their head or moved, they [guards] would strike them with a whip,” said Australian tourist Andrew Catton.

CNN international has also been airing a video package with the photos in question as well as interviews with a Rohingya refugee.

My previous posts on the Rohingya are here and here. And Bangkok Pundit has been blogging about the issue.

Bolivian voters approve a new constitution

Bolivian voters have approved a new constitution designed to empower the country’s indigenous people, who make up a majority of the Andean nation.

The new constitution also allows president Evo Morales, who was elected in 2005, to run for another five year term. The new document will replace the 1967 charter.

You can find more info in stories from AFP (“Bolivians approve sweeping constitutional reforms,”), the New York Times (“Bolivians Ratify New Constitution“), and CNN (“Bolivian vote on constitution could help president“). Bolivia expert Miguel Centellas has also been blogging on the subject.

I’m interested in Andean politics because I spent 2003 living in Ecuador. And I was in Bolivia during the fall of 2003, when president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (a k a “Goni”), was forced to resign amid the Bolivian gas conflict. (Morales would take office just two years later.)

Fog in Bangkok

Fog. In Bangkok.

Fog in Bangkok

This is what the city looked like this morning when I got up. A rare meteorological event here in the Thai captial.

Fog in Bangkok

The strange weather — first the unseasonable coolness, which has since abated, sadly — and now this. The fog was thick enough on Thursday, in fact, to cause disruptions in service at Suvarnabhumi airport.

More on Man U and AIG

Quick note: remember how I mentioned recently that Manchester United is now, in an odd twist, effectively sponsored by the US government (since the Fed has bailed out AIG)? Well, no more.

The AP says that AIG won’t be renewing the deal. No surprise there.

(Via the New York Times‘s soccer blog, Goal.) ((And thanks to Jon for the heads-up comment on my original post.))

Burmese boat people abuse accusations: update

Today’s CSM has an informative update (and illustrative infographic) on the accusations that the Thai navy forced Muslim Burmese boat people back to sea in rickety boats with little food or water.

CSM: “Thailand accused of mistreating Muslim refugees

Other stories:

  • AP: “Thai PM pledges to work with UN refugee agency
  • Economist: “Thailand’s Burmese boat people: Cast adrift
  • VOA: “Thailand Denies UN Access to Burmese Boat People

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