Archive for April, 2011

Buying a Brothel, Legal Recourse and Big Baby Kenny Ng

Posted in สะพานลอย with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2011 by สะพานลอย

First, a word of caution to Professor Kenneth Ng, who continues to violate copyright protections by blatantly stealing proprietary content. Here, in its entirety and unedited, is a fabrication that Professor Ng has published on his dubious blog and has libelously accredited to Saphan Loy:

The “bar” business is prostitution clear and simple. Any claim there is any reason men spend money in lower sukhumvit bars except to conduct business with prostitutes is blowing a smoke screen. Own a lower sukhumvit bar that has girls on staff and you are smack dab in the middle of the biggest whore and brothel industry in Asia.

Hypocrites bar owners that claim they are not taking advantage of impoverished young girls are lying clear and simple. Money goes directly into their pocket everytime a girl goes home with a customer for sex and money goes indirectly into their pocket everytime a girl drink is bought and the John buys a drink for himself.

The class of individual the ownership in the brothel business atrracts, and, surely The Big Mango fits the brothel definition, are what you would expect of individuals who choose to make their living as middlemen for young girls forced by their poverty to sell their bodies. These are the lowest scum of humanity. A bank robber has a greater claim to the moral high ground than a Sukhumivit bar owner for they are only taking peoples money not their self respect and human dignity.

Sunbelt Asia should also be called out for aiding and abetting these businesses by allowing them to adveritse on their site and for making a commisiion of their sale.

Decent people, like myself, should refuse to have anything do with them professionally, financially, or personally.

I do.

Before I impart Saphan Loy’s wisdom on what Professor Ng is attempting to do with regard to the Big Mango Bar, a bit of legal clarification (at the advice of my team of salivating lawyers). First, there are changes in the legal environment in the United States (which has the legislative and Constitutional authority to uphold protections for writers of all backgrounds) that will allow much simpler methods for beginning the process of litigation against Internet frauds like Professor Ng. Anonymously. The reason that our team of well-heeled lawyers is salivating is that, by extension, the entire university system of California (hence the State of California) may soon find itself on the hook for Professor Ng’s nefarious campaign.

To wit, the blogger (in this case, Professor Ng) is now effectively responsible for all posted commentary due to amendments in the shape of the current law. (Our team of lawyers likes to giggle when they say this.) In the most basic terms for the layman, it means that Saphan Loy in the near future may file a lawsuit anonymously against Professor Ng, the California State University at Northridge, and (by extension) the State of California. While it is difficult to tabulate total damages that we will seek, the upshot is that a payday is clearly forthcoming. My team of lawyers will have little difficulty in proving, by way of the functionality of WordPress, that Professor Ng’s ridiculous methods of plagiarism are illegal.

Secondly, deciding what to do with the windfall will prove difficult. Invest in a bar? There are only two reasons to invest in a bar/brothel. The investment itself is just an adolescent fantasy akin to the idea of “buying a casino”. Any institutional investor knows that one should never make an investment for “emotional reasons.” The only rational reason to purchase a bar/brothel, therefore, not only in Bangkok, but anywhere in the world for that matter, would be to offset profits or capital gains from other sources of investment income in order to claim allowable tax deductions (thus calculated as business loss) against other, more lucrative investments. Perhaps the owners of the Big Mango Bar have already done just that. The only secondary reason for investing in a bar in Bangkok (assuming that the conditions of the first rational reason are met) is that you are alcoholic, in which case purchasing beer from yourself at inflated prices (and claiming the loss against other investment income) illustrates very good business acumen. It is always nicer to let other investors, shareholders, friends, lovers, silent partners (or the semi-retarded sex tourists who arrive by the plane-load) pay for (or subsidise) your bar tabs.

At any rate, Professor Ng’s campaign against the sale of the Big Mango Bar (if it is even, in fact, for sale, which hasn’t been established as a fact) would be utterly illegal in the United States. By interfering in free market dynamics, Professor Ng is exhibiting his Chinese ethnic proclivities. The Chinese are notorious scofflaws and vice-peddlers when not yoked to a powerful and nominally Communist system. The reason that China has been thriving as an economic powerhouse is that it is tightly controlled by a severe taskmaster of a government. It is precisely what the Chinese people need. Otherwise left to their own devices, prostitution, opium, gambling, and pornography would likely corrupt the entire society in short time, and arrest any hope for an enlightened progress founded on capitalism. The second reason the Chinese are so “successful” is that whatever they cannot produce industrially, i.e., intellectual capital, computer technology, etc, they simply steal through corporate espionage.

So what are Professor Ng’s objectives in fabricating Saphan Loy’s viewpoint regarding the sale of bars in Bangkok? First, the old man has been pounding away at his university-supplied computer terminal for an entire year about the Big Mango Bar and he is increasingly frustrated by what he cannot achieve under his own name or through legal recourse. There are obvious pressures he is facing from the university’s Board of Regents, and California itself is essentially bankrupt. He is incapable of thinking about anything else, but he takes the time from his busy teaching schedule to draft literally hundreds if not thousands of obscene comments hoping to strike a nerve somewhere, somehow. To maintain tenure, isn’t it important to actually publish something other than a blog? His modus operandi has already been outlined by others, and it is pretty sophomoric and uniquely Chinese in its application. Note how he lured John Galt to the site with a somewhat retarded “tribute”, then subjected him to the same treatment by then falsifying his writing.  

Secondly, unsatisfied with his assaults on the Big Mango, he seeks to drag in Sunbelt Asia, a business brokerage, to which we say to him, good luck, Professor. While Saphan Loy has been critical of Professor Ng and other writers who seek profit from the bar industry, we are not, after all, socialist. Contrary to Professor Ng’s casuistry, Saphan Loy is agnostic to the motivations of bars, brothels, casinos and the like. And taking a stand against industrial reality, i.e., the ubiquity of the nightlife industry around the world, is like throwing a pebble at a warship.

Finally, in all his froth about the Big Mango Bar, hasn’t anyone noticed that the photograph of the girl with arms raised in apparent victory that Professor Ng published is actually quite young looking? Has she signed a model release in the United States? Is she even 18 and can therefore legally consent to the reproduction of her image? Does she have legal recourse against the State of California as well? (My salivating lawyers want answers to these questions.)

Saphan Loy will keep its readership abreast of our legal efforts. In the meantime, let’s hope that Professor Ng had a nice spring break. And should he attempt to recreate Saphan Loy’s protected content in future, he should at least subscribe to the rules of grammar and capitalization. At the very least, perform a spell-check.

The View from Above

Big Top Bangkok: Stickman’s Circus of Teaching Clowns

Posted in สะพานลอย with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2011 by สะพานลอย

Pausing from the arduous task of transcribing notes from my meetings with “Mike”, and the secret history of the red light districts of Southeast Asia, we turn this week to an obscure corner of the Stickman website, which is probably overlooked every Sunday in favour of the latest salacious news and pointers from the red light districts. The series of articles, introduced last summer, is called “Teacher Tim.”

It is important to remember (or at least easy to forget) that the Stickman site even has a secondary objective: to help foreign English teachers who have questions and concerns about teaching in the kingdom. After a closer inspection of the Teacher Tim column on the site, and thanks to the clown-like magic of Google, it becomes evident that the thinly veiled advertorials for TEFL International are written by a circus clown. Quite literally. Tim Torkildson, aka Dusty the Clown. See here for his blog.

Tim Torkildson, TEFL International Spokesman in Thailand and Circus Clown

One of the aspects of living in Thailand and being an integral part of the “naughty nightlife” is that one gets used to an odd assortment of characters who were simply never properly socialized in their own countries, or are addicted to whatever vices found most appealing and readily available in a developing world country. What is particularly unnerving about the selection of a former circus clown as a nominal ringleader of ESL teachers in Bangkok and who, in turn, contributes articles for Bangkok’s most popular red light and adult entertainment website, is that the whole project is simply too creepy to fathom. To enumerate here the variety of reasons why clowns are inherently creepy is to indulge in a psychological exercise largely based on the primal fears and appropriate repulsion of children, and the difficult to articulate anxieties of parents everywhere.  But to use a circus clown as a shill for the ESL teaching profession is a bizarre stunt even for the sordid cast of characters who regularly inhabit the red light districts of Thailand, and the blogs and websites that feature them.

Posting as “Torkythai” on YouTube, here are the commercial pitches (unmitigated by a quirky little weekly column) for the TEFL International program. In this pitch, Tim promises to potential TEFL participants that all the “beautiful women will kiss all the handsome men”, and vice versa.  And if that isn’t incentive enough to take a TEFL International course, Tim the Clown promises “candy and cake and cookies” and “lemonade” to potential teachers who select the Thai-based programs. Here, he also throws in a balloon animal. If that wasn’t enough to entice the prospective student, Tim the Clown takes a creampie in the face. Hard to resist. Unless, of course, you are an actual adult.

Although all of the Torkythai posts are painful to watch and are extremely cringe-worthy, they all tend to engender in the viewer a profound sympathy for unwitting Thai students who have to endure poorly paid ESL teachers recruited in this fashion. In this endorsement from the series of videos, Tim the Clown bizarrely simulates the drinking of “poison” if the viewer does not immediately fork over (in US dollars) from upwards of $1,390 for a TEFL International course in Thailand.

Further review of TEFL International on the Internet reveals that many of its former students actually consider it a kind of “scam” and that its programs in China were, at one point, raided by the police. While Saphan Loy cannot support this claim with any evidence or testimony directly, and reviews on the Internet are notoriously suspect, the fact that the word “scam” appears in a Google pull-down menu to facilitate the search term is, in itself, a kind of supporting evidence by design of the search engine. Try the terms “TEFL International” and “Scam”, and more stories appear about the company.   

TEFL International is a business predicated upon the assumption that anyone can obtain the qualifications necessary to teach English as a Second Language (ESL, or sometimes rendered English as a Foreign Language EFL) in a few weeks. That there are prestigious universities that dedicate the resources necessary to confer master’s and doctoral degrees in the subject (as applied linguistics, or as second language pedagogy) in the United States and Great Britain seems to Saphan Loy to suggest that receiving the equivalent expertise in a few week’s time is extraordinarily dubious. That said, what can be surmised from the TEFL clown’s tactics is that they are disturbed reminders that mixing teaching and frequenting red light districts (like the Stickman does, and like Big Baby Kenny, also a teacher, does too), can cause some interesting dilemmas for the teachers responsible for the content of the brothel websites. See TEFL Clown Tim choke his own chicken here.

Anyway, what’s an honest red light writer (and non-teacher) to do? Send in the Clowns. Naturally.

The View from Above

Leaked: The Secret History of Operation Hollow Men (Part 1)

Posted in สะพานลอย with tags , , , , , , on April 16, 2011 by สะพานลอย

Here is a story that has waited patiently for many years to be told. Nearly one year after Saphan Loy was launched, complete with the breaking of a champagne bottle over an antiquated hard drive, we are honoured to present an exclusive feature story that has been years in the making. With the sad passing of one of Saphan Loy’s dearest drinking companions and confidants over at the Madrid Bar in Patpong (we’ll call him “Mike”), and the modest Buddhist ceremony at a small temple in Kanchanaburi that marked his entry into the next world, we can “safely” begin to tell it here for the first time without fear of compromising “Mike’s” identity, his extensive network of contacts, or his activities prior to passing away.

Like any complex narrative, the story itself unfolded over many nights at the Madrid and in the strictest of confidence. There was, however, a tacit understanding that by hook or by crook, Mike wanted the story to be known for whatever personal reasons. Occasionally told in a drunken haze or two, with a moll or two straddling his lap, and at other times retold soberly over cups of coffee at out-of-the way cafes during the monsoon rains, Mike animated the story for Saphan Loy with the conviction that its complexity would be unraveled before esophageal cancer got the better of him. It is in his memory and honour that the story of Operation Hollow Men is hereby recounted.

In 1964, Mike, an intelligent young American graduate student, a bit idealistic but studious and quite obviously smart, and well on his way to earning  a PhD in applied statistics, was approached to join a company of CIA officers and US military servicemen in developing an extension of the program called the Psychological Operations Group, or OP 39, for the dissemination of “black psychological operations (or psy-ops)” within the Southeast Asian theatre during the lead-up to the Vietnam War. These operations fell under the umbrella of the semi-mythical Studies and Observations Group (SOG), a covert effort that coincided with increases in military presence in Indochina. He explained,

When they approached me about the job, I was really just a kid. I told my father about it, and he was all gung-ho, but that was just his generation talking. So I took the job. It beat the prospect of teaching at a university. It allowed me to travel. Because I didn’t have too many contacts anyway, no girlfriend at home, it wasn’t too difficult to explain away my sudden disappearance. My folks just told everyone that I was doing missionary work, or something like that, which seemed believable enough, I guess. My parents were both active in the local Presbyterian church, although certainly not zealots or anything. And by ‘active’, I mean they brought a pie or cake to the Sunday morning bake sales and made significant donations at Christmas time.

Mike, who was fully supportive of US efforts at the time from a political standpoint (having come from a conservative and relatively wealthy family in New England), agreed to offer his services and was therefore sent to an intensive language training program maintained by the US government in Montana, where he breezed through his coursework in Thai, Laotian, Hmong, Lahu, Khmer, Vietnamese and Mandarin Chinese. His facility with difficult and obscure Asian languages attracted the attention of the top brass at the CIA, and, although Mike never confirmed it, it seems his work on OP 39 became more complicated: although he wore the uniform of a serviceman, his checks would come from Langley for the rest of his natural life.

In Montana, they actually imported all of these Asian teachers. It was kind of funny to see them out in God’s country and dealing with the harsh winters. But the agency provided them with meals, lodging, healthcare, you name it. They even had their own cuisine whipped up in the mess hall so they wouldn’t get too homesick. The smallest town was like 45 minutes away and we were out on this ranch in beautiful country surroundings. The trout fishing and the fresh air were incredible. The place had its own electrical generating system and telecommunications capabilities, water filtration system, the works. There was nothing else to do out there other than study languages. Because I was pretty good at Hmong, I thought I’d end up in Laos up in the hills. But no dice. 

Mike seemed to enjoy his senescence in Thailand, like the scores of government pensioners and retirees who find themselves in Pattaya, Chiang Mai, or even Bangkok today. He maintained a modest home on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya, and, while he had a Thai wife several years ago who since returned to her native village to take care of an ailing mother, Mike had a series of “girlfriends” (all of whom he called “Lek”) who would tend to him, cook his meals, do his laundry, take care of the house, chase away monitor lizards, pick the mangoes. Typical arrangement found anywhere throughout the Kingdom. “All on the US taxpayer’s dime,” he would sometimes say, chuckling to himself.

When Mike and I would meet at the Madrid, it had at some point become an almost daily ritual. He would order his steak and eggs and nurse a glass of house red wine, and Saphan Loy would order a beer (or two) and simply listen. He rarely allowed me to take notes, so we would have to rush home (traffic permitting) and hit the keyboard quickly in an effort to ensure that all the details were freshly preserved. Admittedly, there were parts of Mike’s story that were difficult to believe, the details really straining the limitations of what I had always assumed was an objectively verifiable “reality”. And I told him so. After all, Saphan Loy enjoyed watching documentaries about the Vietnam War, and none of this stuff was ever included in those grainy newsreels and highly polished productions that appear with frequency on public television stations.

One of the realities of the American effort in Indochina was the logistical complexity that the war really represented. Diplomatically, militarily, culturally, the place was a literal jungle of confusion, conflicting ideologies, divergent loyalties, and geopolitical maneuvering. For the boys who showed up bravely to do their part, the war required an astonishing level of preparation. Even the guys Mike worked with were a bit overwhelmed by the tasks they were assigned. But there was something in the work that Mike really relished. He never shied away from a challenge. And he always spoke glowingly of the guys he worked with at different phases of the operation.

The thing you have to remember about the operation was how the guys came together from different parts of the agency with different skill sets. Our psychiatric team was second-to-none. They were essentially building better mouse-traps. They knew where to put the cheese, and how to ensure that their guys kept coming back for more. It isn’t too hard to manipulate behaviour, but if you want to repeat your success rates, you have to take certain measures, tweak the results ever-so-slightly, measure again, then change it up a bit.

Operation Hollow Men was a spin-off of Operation Humidor (another OP 39 project). Mike reported that the paper trail between the two operations was so thoroughly eradicated that, over time, few people in Operation Humidor even knew of the existence of the Hollow Men team. In essence, Mike’s project had become semi-autonomous. Sure, Langley had a direct say in some of its activities. But for the most part, the Hollow Men team was like an independent cell operating under such deep cover that, according to Mike, at one point he no longer knew what part of the story was true himself. Nor did he care. Living as he did in a world of fiction really suited him. 

Operation Hollow Men was comprised of a team of several men and a few women who specialized in a wide variety of operative tasks. While Operation Humidor worked on spreading misinformation deep inside Northern Vietnamese territory and creating fictional insurrections, Operation Hollow Men had an entirely different set of instructions. The team included clinical psychiatrists, behavioural experts, urban planners, linguists and biochemists. The head of the Hollow Men team was a guy they all called “St. Elmo.”

Based in Bangkok, St. Elmo was the “go to” guy with the Thai government and the local Chinese business establishment. Fluent in Thai, Hainanese and the Teochew dialects of Chinese, St Elmo was charged with the first stages of Operation Hollow Men. The idea was fairly simple. The behavioural scientists and clinical psychiatrists were tasked with a two-pronged objective: first, to alleviate battlefield stress by designing “R&R” experiences in friendly countries (Thailand, Japan and the Philippines) in urban environments that would not have a long-term impact on the American and allied soldiers either morally or chemically; and secondly to recreate similar conditions for the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars and VC operatives at remote locations deep in North Vietnam, with some coordinates placed even in Laos and Cambodia.

St. Elmo is quite a character. He is a cartographer by training. Maps were his bag, before GPS systems and the NGA and all that. He could negotiate with the Chinese Thai community directly. He was shrewd. And of course his budget was limitless. So when he made proposals, they were rarely turned down. Before the US became directly involved in the local markets, these small-time guys were selling cigarettes and cans of Budweiser individually, or taking wagers on the cock fights. Anyway, St. Elmo loved the whole thing. From start to finish. From setting up the first bars once the tactical team decided on placement and design, to hand-selecting the colour of the women’s bikinis and now notorious number tags, he was the guy. The Lahu women would sometimes call him the “Papa Roach”, but why that is, I have no idea.

Throughout the conflict, the NVA and the Viet Cong treated battlefield stress with a potent sedative manufactured in China that tranquilized the soldiers in a “clean” way. Taken with rice whiskey, the medications soothed weary soldiers and allowed them to sleep restfully without any detrimental residual effects. The medication also eased sexual cravings. According to Mike, one of the ideas that they originally floated was a covert attempt to interdict the pharmaceutical supply lines from China that the NVA troops had regular access to. Interrupting this supply with adulterated pills would be a sure-fire way to reduce effectiveness among NVA troops and the VC. While efforts were made during intense aerial bombardments along the Ho Chi Minh Trail to pinpoint the supply lines from the Chinese pharmaceuticals factory directly, penetrating the chemical and pharmaceutical distribution network was (and remains to this day in the region) extremely difficult, labor-intensive, and expensive.

Meanwhile the NVA intelligence collection capabilities were unsurpassed and growing more entrenched by the day. Having infiltrated the highest reaches of South Vietnam’s political and civil structures, the NVA intelligence apparatus made use of a wide range of strategies that challenged St. Elmo’s planning capacities. SOG was left in the intractable position of having to emulate the NVA intelligence-gathering tactics themselves rather than dedicate the necessary resources to effect projects “from scratch”. One of the signature ways that North Vietnam collected intelligence in Saigon was to simply open a go-go bar, massage parlour, nightclub, or a brothel that appealed to American servicemen, off-duty intelligence analysts, and even foreign embassy staff, then make use of dancers, masseuses and other comely bar girls to entice and seduce them. These linguists, hand-selected females who were often trained in Maoist China, used a “broken” English to signify a lack of understanding and to disguise their true identities. The reality was far more complex. Often intoxicated, the off-duty US and allied government personnel in Saigon would talk to each other and share sensitive information under the mistaken assumption that the substance of their conversations was not completely understood by these highly skilled intelligence operatives.

An Image from Saigon in 1972. The Kiwi Club.

By duplicating the North Vietnamese intelligence collection methodology, Operation Hollow Men began to take shape in Bangkok. The team mobilized small entertainment troupes that would set up shop in proximity to NVA and VC troop installations that dotted the Southeast Asian theatre of war. By using simple karaoke machines, basic stereo systems (either cleverly disguised as Chinese manufacture, or “repurposed” war materiel), and a modified rice whiskey that stimulated the libido (as well as the desire to “talk”), Operation Hollow Men was able to beat the Vietnamese at their own game and to achieve a modicum of success for the intelligence community.

While the mobile entertainment units were deployed in the field in Northern Vietnam and elsewhere, St. Elmo was busy negotiating with the Thai Chinese community to set up a “safe haven” for US troops on R&R in Bangkok proper. He scouted desirable locations in what was then mostly rural coconut plantations along the khlongs that spidered out from the city center. Sure, the military had its concessionaires outside of the airfields like U-Tapao, but these were rather simple affairs staffed mostly with young women who wanted to marry a farang. The Hollow Men team’s plans had envisioned an entire district in Bangkok, and later multiple districts, designed by urban planners and behavioural specialists, in which to establish entertainment venues that would ultimately serve several functions. Insofar as the Thais would allow such districting within the city was a different matter entirely. Nonetheless, St. Elmo was instrumental in selecting the Patpong district as well as Soi Cowboy as special economic zones for the purposes of Operation Hollow Men. When the Thai government objected to additional sites and insisted on the reconfiguration of New Petchaburi Road, a small fishing village on the Eastern seaboard was selected as a viable alternative.

It was funny, because normally the US Army Corps of Engineers is assigned to setting up bases and field locations. But the agency saw that as a potential compromise. Too many people to trust, basically. So after the urban planners and behavioral specialists designed these miniature mouse-traps, we had to hand-select a group of guys from the Navy, telecom engineers who were a crazy bunch of guys. They basically would rig up anything, sound systems, radio beacons, whatever, then spend the night drinking. These guys didn’t care what we were doing. They basically set up the juke joints out in the jungles and in Bangkok too, and the agency would do the rest.

First, according to Mike, they needed to create a safe and effective way to deliver sedatives and related psychotropics that the US had designed (and that a large Swiss pharmaceuticals firm [NAME REDACTED] was producing on schedule per a lucrative US government contract.) Second, the US government wanted to ensure that its service members were not lured into similar projects established by the enemy in regions that were considered outside of the military’s purview thus harder to monitor, including remote jungle outposts or Potemkin-like villages nestled near the secret airfields. By staffing these sites with compliant and docile Lahu women under the authority of a Thai “mamasan”, the military ensured that the sensitive matter of “comfort women”, for which the Imperial Japanese had been well-known, was dispensed with out of hand. And thirdly, by creating a revenue stream for the Thai government and its intermediaries, the US was ensuring that its various interests in the Kingdom would be protected. In essence, by converting the US dollar to Thai baht (via private arrangements between servicemen and the Lahu women) in these specially designed military districts, Thailand’s treasury was receiving a generous cash “gratuity.” This cash exchange was entirely separate from the clubs that were directly controlled by the military and that issued its own currency in the form of redeemable “tokens”, usually smaller monetary amounts that could be traded for bottles of beer or cigarettes.

To be continued.

The View from Above

Dissecting a Frog Bar and Other Curiosities

Posted in สะพานลอย with tags , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2011 by สะพานลอย

One of the strengths of WordPress (shameless plug for the platform) is that it alerts the author to all sorts of interesting Internet metrics. For example, our profile on the hot ladyboy action that the Stickman wrote about over at the Frog Bar in Pattaya has become a search engine result for the terms “dissecting a frog.” Saphan Loy apologises in advance to frustrated biology students everywhere who were hoping to find an easy answer for their lab assignments concerning the anatomy of the Rana esculenta.

Another perplexing development in the red light blogosphere is the revival of a previously moribund URL. Thanks to the diligence of the folks over at BigDummyKenny (soon to be renamed) and also to evidence of incoming links from the old URL, a bit of a digital curiosity has emerged from the wreckage of the former Werewolf’s Lair. After he abandoned his efforts and wrote an occasional, awkward post for the Big Mango Blog, the Werewolf put up a bizarre children’s site mockup (see below regarding Saphan Loy’s views of the subject of children). The old ghost link has now been reanimated and is called “mundane Bangkok” complete with a sidebar of crosslinks. Why Saphan Loy was omitted from this list is a mystery (and we take offense at the oversight).

So what’s the new blog about? Absolutely nothing. The syntax is clearly not the fabled Werewolf. The style is not quite right for him, so our theory is that he handed over the keys to the URL to someone (an elderly sex tourist) he met in a bar and said, “Good luck.” If the Werewolf had wanted to reintroduce himself to the world, why not start with a new URL? The old one is just plain awkward anyway.

What is to be discerned from the content of the new site? First, the writer has not been in Thailand “for 40 years”.  Fair enough. That puts him squarely in the Vietnam War veteran demographic, presumably an American whose first experience of the country was on R&R, or serving at one of the airbases in the boondocks. He may have now retired to Thailand  (or at the very least visits often), which he finds “mundane.” Ho hum. In Saphan Loy’s estimation, his “non-agenda” constitutes an agenda, so the reader should be wary. The very first post (some bland and not very original observations about Songkran) features, of all the possible mundane topics at his disposal, a conversation with children.

A word of advice to anyone posting information about Thailand for public consumption, particularly on an old URL (called bargirlsrpeople2) that once trumpeted the benefits of multiple sex partners culled from the red light districts. Avoid the subject of children like the plague. They are to be seen and not heard, not only in Thailand, but all around the globe.

That said, we wish the second “boring Bangkok blogger” the best of luck and a happy Songkran. And if you truly feel that Bangkok is either “boring”  or “mundane”, perhaps you might consider a holiday somewhere you may find more to your liking. Like, say, Disneyland.

Artist's rendering of proposed Disneyland in Shanghai

The View from Above

Bangkok Noir, Part Deux: The Red Light Lit Scribblers Convene

Posted in สะพานลอย with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2011 by สะพานลอย

If the “artwork” of Chris Coles was not enough to sate the average sex tourist’s refined aesthetic appetites, then rest assured. In coordination with the Coles exhibit was the release of a pulpish collection of short stories by such luminaries as Dean Barrett, Stephen Blather, Christopher Moore and, drumroll please, John Burdett. Yes, you read that right, cowboys: the same ecrivain who simply copied the existing red light lit formula and found himself on the New York Times best seller’s list, thus offending the entire reading public’s sense of decorum and already questionable taste in literature. How did he achieve this? A few positive reviews were drunkenly submitted by critics who knew nothing about Thailand or the implausibility of the ridiculous, error-strewn plots. While his novels about Thailand are all equally unreadable, he should nonetheless fire his publicist for convincing him to join in this enfeebled discussion at all (unless of course the whole trip to Thailand and accompanying trips to Soi Cowboy were tax write-offs). Pico Iyer, arguably the most talented of the lot, wisely stayed away from this rice paddy. Far away.

Thankfully, some bored soul, aroused from his own intrusive and recurring thoughts (“How soon can I get to the Eden Club?”), recorded the whole noirish circle-jerk (at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on March 17) and uploaded it to YouTube. Here, Barrett humiliates himself as usual (as he sits next to Burdett) by reading a nonsensical definition of “noir” that he actually cribbed from some guy on the Internet. Saphan Loy has not provided subtitles because, well, it is difficult to understand Barrett’s point (if he even intended to make one.) Clearly, the word processors assembled here were warmed up by the local spirits (and knock-off sedatives) in some Washington Square hell-hole before the event took place.

Listening to Christopher Moore’s exaggerated French pronunciation of “noir” and his accompanying attempts to describe what “noir” really is, is simply painful. Perhaps as painful as listening to an inebriated Burdett drone on and on about how bar girls represent the “noir” economy of Thailand. Really? Panty and lingerie vendors on Soi Cowboy stimulate the Thai economy? Or do you mean (just as certain farang typists have always done) they simply want a cut of prostitution’s filthy lucre? The grim reality is this: Burdett and the other foreign dissemblers assembled here, tired of sitting on bar stools and paying for sex for decades at a time, sought a way to recoup their sex “deposits” by writing bad fiction for sale in order to cynically enjoy a bit of a return on their years of dedicated “field research”.

And notice the former Thai Police General’s (Nai Vasit Deijkunchorn) reaction to Burdett’s insinuation that go-go bars pay off the police to allow them to stay open later. Burdett’s adolescent gaffe is almost unbearable to watch. For someone who supposedly has spent years in Asia, his indiscretion and offense to his Thai hosts is irrefutable proof that, rather than convey nuances in Thai culture, or capture Bangkok’s “noir economy”, or whatever other rhetorical reasons they can concoct, these bar stool writers merely seek to profit from the miseries of poor girls from the Isarn countryside and the “noirish” stories that they tell in broken English, night after night.

In addition to an ailing water buffalo, extended money-strapped families, and the monkey of addiction, bar girls have several more mouths to feed: farang “artists” and “scribblers” who simply enjoy the act of kissing, and telling.

The View from Above 

Bangkok Noir: Beer, Bargirls, and a Paintbrush

Posted in สะพานลอย with tags , , , , , , , on April 6, 2011 by สะพานลอย

The blogs and commercial websites have been falling all over themselves in an effort to promote the so-called “Bangkok Noir” painter Chris Coles. Saphan Loy knows a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to art, so it is fairly risible to see someone like Dean Barrett, William R. Morledge, or Christopher Moore promoting so heavily the Coles exhibition in Bangkok this month.

One of the symptoms of sustained exposure to the red light districts of Thailand that sex tourists routinely exhibit aside from venereal diseases is a strange desire to attempt to capture, however imperfectly, in photography, words, or, as we see here, in fluorescent paints that glow in the dark, the essence of the experience. That it is ephemeral and highly mutable with the added effects of alcohol and drugs (whether cheap sex enhancements or the like) makes the whole process somewhat dubious and deeply derivative.

It might be easy to dismiss out-of-hand the work of Coles as an artifact of the nightlife in Thailand and elsewhere that illustrates that, when one is truly addicted to the experience of sitting on a bar stool in some Patpong or Nana Plaza dumpsite, there is little else to do other than doodle on a cocktail napkin or partake in some Chang Beer induced navel-gazing. Taking it one step further and committing the whole thing to canvas seems to Saphan Loy like an act of masturbatory self-justification born not of artistic “inspiration”, but of profound feelings of guilt and sorrow.

Omitted from the Coles site is, unfortunately, a detailed price list. Although it is unlikely that Mr. Coles’ paintings will appear on Sotheby’s auction block anytime soon, the discerning sex tourist, when not haggling for the cheaper wares of the Patpong night market or eagerly pursuing beer specials, may have an altogether different artistic opinion. 

While we gave up staring at black-lit or glow-in-the-dark posters many years ago, at about the same time we gave up smoking marijuana and listening to Pink Floyd, Saphan Loy has considered purchasing a painting from Mr. Coles for the reception room of our corporate offices to position right above the love seat, preferably one showing the rictus grin of a ladyboy.

Barring that possibility, Saphan Loy proposes to commission Coles to do something on a larger, more ambitious scale. We envision a large black canvas filled with his signature fluorescent paint that shows the artist sitting alone in a mostly empty Bangkok hellhole and being visited by the worst kinds of demons of his own pathological worldview and imagination, mildly retarded with Singha beer and easily procured barbiturates, while (and here’s the tricky part) on the television screen positioned over the bar is the projection of Coppo di Marcovaldo’s medieval depiction of hell, rendered by Coles in precise and painstaking detail. 

The View from Above

Bye Bi Kenny: The End of An Affair

Posted in สะพานลอย with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2011 by สะพานลอย

Saphan Loy has decided that ultimately the BBK website is over and we will no longer expend efforts in attempting to uphold anything that resembles a vigilant critique of that site. The specious content posted there is no longer “about Thailand”. The fat man has sung, so to speak. As the self-authored commentary spools out like the tail-end of a bad 16 mm pornographic film projected onto the wall in some squalid suburban basement in California, flapping wildly against the reel of the projector, so too has it become all the more clearer that that site is done.

Stick a fork in it.

While we have not posted a comment there in months, not only does the site continue to violate US copyright protections by reproducing Saphan Loy’s protected intellectual property, but its flagrant violation of other federal privacy protections, Thai domestic laws governing indecency and pornography, as well as his thinly-veiled attacks on the royalty all constitute an extraordinary break with reason and with good conscience. Plus, it is all presented in the singular voice of a cornered man, someone for whom the bounds of common public discourse no longer hold much meaning. In his desperation to prove a point to his academic community, the students and the tax-payers of California, he has revealed that he will stop at nothing, including publishing photographs of “license plates” of innocent people he suspects of “being John Galt.” If this does not sound alarm bells among the mental health professionals in California, I suppose nothing will.

Saphan Loy believes that part of the end (at least for this reader) was the result of a closer inspection of the so-called “photography” of the site. His ladyboy feature on the “Slut of Shanghai” shows one photograph (the crotch shot) where the viewer not only sees that the ladyboy is wearing some kind of support garment to conceal his testicles, but that also there is a poor Thai father holding a small child in the background witnessing the spectacle. That an American professor thinks nothing of this kind of display of rural poverty and degradation, and feels free enough to publish such unspeakable indecency, speaks volumes to the kind of person behind the BBK site.

When BBK was outed by the mainstream media one year ago in the United States, he had the wonderful opportunity to simply say “no comment”, to remove the offensive material from public consumption, and to dedicate the past year to repairing his reputation and smoothing the ruffled feathers of his colleagues. Instead, he submitted to interviews and wrote poorly-crafted “defenses” of something that is really indefensible. His ego, blinded by the glare of the media lights and the vague promise of potential Internet stardom, for such a brief moment was nourished in a way that his spotty academic record could never do (along with the wet dreams of Nobel-worthy economic theories). That he chose to do this is a sad testament to one man’s damaged capacity for reasonable, rational (self-interested) behaviour.

We wish him (and the cast of characters he created to advance his racist, sexist, and psychologically wounded rhetoric) all the luck in the world.

The View from Above