Archive for Stephen Leather

Chris Coles and Bangkok Noir Redux. And Redux. And Redux….And Redux…

Posted in สะพานลอย with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2013 by สะพานลอย

Paint by Numbers

Those indefatigable academic men at work from Down Under over at New Mandala have given Chris Coles pride of place in a February 15th posting in which the paint-maker describes, yet again in the event that you’ve missed his bizarre explanations in the past (or if you failed to purchase the book called Navigating the Bangkok Noir), why his art is exactly like German expressionism, why it is important, why writers like Stephen Leather (Banging Bill’s Wife) and Christopher G. Moore (Pattaya 24/7 and The Wisdom of Beer) are part of this “noir” movement, etc, etc. 

It is somewhat surprising that the learned professors who run New Mandala have allowed Coles to drone on and on about this topic, although perhaps less surprising that Saphan Loy’s response to the post was moderated out of existence. It went something like this:

Chris Coles’ guest post has all the hallmarks of a self-serving, self-congratulatory navel-gazing think-piece clearly intended to revive a moribund interest in his book of the same name, and to generate some sympathy for this idea that his work and the work of others somehow constitutes an expressionist movement unique to Bangkok’s grim underbelly. There are so many things wrong with this from an intellectual perspective that it is difficult to know where to begin. First, there is something inherently artificial in attempting to broadly create an “artistic” movement of expatriate “artists” (mostly down-on-their luck expatriates who also happen to spend inordinate amounts of time in Bangkok’s brothel districts while scribbling implausible stories on bar napkins), where there simply is none. Coles lumps his own painting efforts, the macabre neon results of which are perhaps best-suited for the interior of a carnival funhouse, with the scribbling of typists like Christopher Moore, Stephen Leather, and Jon Burdett, whose collective fictive output is largely unreadable and place an undo strain on wood-pulp processing factories as well as the digital backbone of the Internet. In fact, Stephen Leather has recently taken to giving away digital copies of “erotic” short stories on Amazon with titles like “Banging Bill’s Wife.”  The most commercially popular of this sorry lot is Jon Burdett, but even his Bangkok-based stories do little justice to the nuanced reality and cultural complexity of living in a place like Thailand, and they have little to no bearing on Coles’ imagined “noir” movement. What is equally distressing about this whole misguided effort is that the concept of noir, as an extension of the German expressionism that Coles so admires, is essentially being grafted onto one very narrow aspect of Thai urban culture, namely the red-light districts that cater to white foreign men. There is very little of the native Thai voice to be found in his concept of Bangkok noir (or Southeast Asian noir) or whatever; and when Thais do appear, they are merely prostitutes, drug dealers, or murderers or corrupt public servants. One can hope and think and try to will into existence some grand artistic movement until the water buffalo comes home. But if other scholars, writers, art critics, and historians of Southeast Asia are directing their gaze elsewhere, or fail to see any artistic merit whatever in the examples Coles provides, then the overly ambitious Bangkok noir movement is destined to be consigned to the collective digital shrug of the Internet’s ever-shortening memory.   


Now, Lek and I occasionally read some of the postings over on the New Mandala site, which we had mistakenly believed was a place of lively academic debate and rigorous intellectual exploration. (Lek finds anything with too many words “boring”.) Instead what one has come to expect from New Mandala is a small coterie of like-minded individuals, exhibiting all of the mutually masturbatory inclinations of a left-leaning graduate school seminar, who seem to save the lion’s share of their consternation for the institution of the Thai monarchy and the threadbare cliche of corrupt Southeast Asian politics (the amount of ink that has been spilled tilting after this windmill in the Western academy shows no signs of drying, so long as another PhD can be squeezed profitably from the tired hackwork of political scientists flummoxed by Southeast Asia’s historically-grounded patron-client networks.)

Poseidon Massage Parlor

Here is Coles’s take on corruption in Bangkok (or Southeast Asia by extension):

A world where endemic corruption is not only considered to be “normal” and “permanent” but even “essential”.

In most of these artistic works, there always seems to be double helpings of Impunity, disenfranchisement, South East Asia Big Men, a complete lack of any meaningful Rule of Law, almost no actual rights inherently belonging to the individual.

Coles makes clear in the beginning of his post that he is not an intellectual, but an “artist”. He admits this probably to deflect attention from the weakness of his arguments and the implausibility of his observations (generally limited to the area in proximity to Bangkok’s red-light districts). Even so, in a forum like New Mandala, the claims he makes here about the absence of Rule of Law in Southeast Asia, and the lack of “actual rights belonging to the individual” should at least invite some scrutiny or critical circumspection, at the very minimum. Instead, the editors at New Mandala decided that Coles was immune from pointed criticism, and so his post has all of the characteristics of a bully-pulpit, a kind of meandering journey through a painter’s untutored mind.

Homosexual Bars in Bangkok

We will leave this tired story (which shows no signs of going gently into that noirish night) with some parting words from Coles, which have the nasty chemical buzz of paranoia the kind usually associated with psychedelic drug abuse:

Individuals are frequently and arbitrarily subject to state and Big Man violence, selective and biased law enforcement, sometimes even assassination and disappearances. 

The View from Above

2012 Stumbles to an Ignominius End

Posted in สะพานลอย with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2012 by สะพานลอย

….and 2013 looks no better for the motley group of fools who continue with their dubious output of words and poorly framed photographs depicting the brothel districts of Thailand, from the disgraced professors and teachers (Big Baby Kenny Ng and Stickman), to the humdrum typists of pulp e-books which nobody purchases (Stephen Blather et. al.), to the marginally retarded (Bangkok Buddy and Kent Hammond). Normally, Saphan Loy would conduct a “blow-by-blow” analysis of the year in review, but sadly, it seems that the whole year was a washout for the barflies of Bangkok.

The holiday season in Thailand’s red light districts is a grim reminder that there are many lost souls from around the world who continue to gravitate to these places, washed up has-beens, lovelorn, hopeless, and thirsty, compelled by the biological imperatives of their unmanageable vices, motivated by the squalid reward of a short-time hotel room, a cheap sex enhancement drug, and a Thai rice farmer’s daughter or two. Or a Thai rice farmer’s son in drag who happens to possess an artificially added set of double DDs and a chemically induced uncircumcised hard-on, or a surgically altered vaginal skin-fold.

It is a time when our favourite bar girls, mamasans, and bartenders are trotted out in the cheapest of Christmas-themed lingerie and paraded around sticky barroom floors in darkened corners of cheap, third-world gin mills, enticed by a few hundred baht and the false promise of an improvement in their stations in life.

It is the time of year to drown regrets in rice whiskey, or the local non-potable lager, and to stifle the merest threat of an emerging sense of conscience, any images of domesticity that we left behind elsewhere in the developed world where we once may have had friends and family, or even the thought, “What the hell am I doing here?”

It is also the time of the year when we can imagine, although remotely and through the artifice of fiction, a character much like George Bailey, driven to despair by financial catastrophe in the timeless American classic It’s a Wonderful Life, who attempts suicide only to be shown a life without his presence in the world, followed by a dramatic, heart-warming redemption.

We can picture, for example, Professor Big Baby Kenny Ng, clinically depressed by the mistakes of his life, his failures as an economist/school teacher, his morbid obesity, his disgraceful and very public fall from grace, and his grotesque appetite for young Thai bargirls, contemplating suicide on a barstool somewhere in Saphan Khwai (yes, he has sunk this low), while drunkenly crying in his cups and muttering dark curses at his imagined enemies and the success of others. Yes, we can see him, his ego stung by the utterance of a snaggle-toothed ladyboy who has just called him a khii mao, in this Saphan Khwai hellhole, his life story spooling away from him like the sad and sordid conclusion to an old 16 mm stag film he vaguely remembers from his misspent youth witnessing the fabled Tijuana donkey show flickering on a yellowing wall in his dorm room.

And we can hope, as we watch him in this Saphan Khwai watering hole, trying to find an outlet for his laptop and arguing with the mamasan in a language he does not understand, that Ng will come to meet an angel who will put his arm around his shoulder and say, “But you have had a wonderful life, Professor Ng.” And when this dreary holiday fable comes to its conclusion in the darkened karaoke parlor, and those grim concluding words appear, “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends”, we will all sigh deeply, because, well, we know how Ng has mistreated his friends and alienated his colleagues irreparably.

My lovely assistant Lek is in tears, daubing at her almond eyes with a Kleenex, the poor thing. Ok, enough of your blubbering. Get me a drink. And put on that skimpy Father Christmas costume I purchased for you.

Similarly, we can wish at this time of year that the celebrated scribe of the red light districts, the Stickman, is visited by a Dickensian scene, the bar girl of Christmas past, who appears to him in his Bangkok high-rise bound in the chains of oppression that he has caused by stimulating a prurient interest in all things related to sex commerce. Awakened at midnight by the apparition, the Stick cowers under his mosquito net, while the bar girl of Christmas past says, “You handsome man no good man. You bad man.

Stickman is awakened at midnight by the bar girl of Christmas past.

The Stick mistakenly believes he is dreaming, and responds, “Is that Bernard Trink?”, then swallows another tranquilizer. His slumber thus returned, he is awakened soon thereafter by the bargirl of Christmas present, who shows him the horrid reality of plane-loads of elderly westerners arriving in Bangkok, all streaming into the big yellow vagina of Nana Plaza, depositing their baht along with their diseased chromosomal material, and leaving empty beer bottles and broken lives of the impoverished girls who remain behind staring hopefully at the dim glow emanating from their cellphones.

And finally, what of the bar girl of Christmas future? What tidings does she bring? Or he? And whither the red light districts in Thailand in 2013? Only the new year will tell. Lek has visited the witch doctor and received bad tidings. But I am optimistic. And rest assured gentle reader. In an ever more hostile cyber world, Saphan Loy will continue to be a “troll-free zone” and will remain a place where intelligent, adult discussion of all things Thai brothel districts is welcome, where sexpats and sex tourists can tune in for the latest deep analysis of the red light blogosphere and the bizarre bedfellows who populate it.

Therefore, may you and your bar girls or ladyboys (or donkeys) enjoy the best of the holiday season, and with hope look forward to another year of unabashed whoring and drinking and drugging all the while avoiding liver failure or cardiac arrest. And may all of your wishes at the Hindu shrines of Bangkok bring you the loves of your life, prosperity, and just enough success to continue your binges without guilt, shame, or remorse of any kind.

Happy New Year!

Yours truly, and my lovely assistant Lek.

The View from Above

Bangkok Eyesore Revisited

Posted in สะพานลอย with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2012 by สะพานลอย

Recently, Saphan Loy paid a visit to William R. Morledge to see how his little corner of Bangkok has been and to determine via textual analysis whether he has kicked his Ketamine habit. What we discovered there, in that luridly designed throwback to the dawn of World Wide Web page construction, was that it is clear that the Ketamine has taken its toll, and much like Dean Barrett (another geriatric “webmaster”), whose rants about Muslims are bizarre reminders of his mental deterioration, has resorted to a long paranoid essay on the arrival of “Big Brother”, the collection of online data in vast server farms, and the ability of the television set to transmit signals directly to his brain.

The content of the latest Morledge essay is in striking contrast to the normally banal photographs of neon signs that had been his hallmark for many years. It indicates to Saphan Loy that, in effect, his mental illness has had a sudden onset, and it is only a matter of time before he is transferred to the funny farm where he may spend the remainder of his days heavily medicated, drooling, staring at his shoes, and cutting his salisbury steak with a plastic, unserrated knife.

Evidence of a diseased mind at Bangkok Eyesore.

Just who is this Morledge character?  William R. Morledge is an example of what naturally happens after prolonged exposure to the red light districts of Thailand. It may even be the result of tertiary syphilis, which attacks the brain of the infected individual in its final, untreated stages. One wonders, really, if Morledge, Dean Barrett, Big Baby Kenny Ng, Stephen Blather, and Chris Coles have formed a support group for those coping with the disease, as their collective output seems to show clear signs of the affliction.

Nonetheless, there is something intrinsically disturbing when one stumbles upon the website of a deranged “webmaster”, to use Stickman’s oft-repeated phrase. Since websites and blogs about Thai red light districts are often the haunt of the lonely, the unstable, and the sociopathic, when their creators evidence the kind of madness found at Bangkok Eyesore, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. After all, one can sustain a lifestyle predicated on congress with people in an illegal transnational sex trade for only so long. But in our years of reportage on the red light bloggers, “webmasters”, scribblers, dabblers, peddlers, doodlers, barkers, punters, pushers, bunglers, and farters, William R. Morledge is illustrating the rule rather than the exception.

Big Baby Kenny Ng’s Site Just Got Dirtier.

Speaking of infected scribblers, Saphan Loy would be remiss in not mentioning that Professor Ng’s site has been zapped by an ugly bug, the kind that does not respond at all to antibiotics. As BDK has published, the site is appearing in all major search engines as something that could harm your computer, whereas before, a visit to BigBabyKenny merely insulted one’s intelligence.

For the record, Saphan Loy does not condone cyber attacks of this kind. But were we to make a prediction, it would be that, because these kinds of problems are often intractable, and given Ng’s dogged persistence in making an ape’s ass out of himself, we would look for an all new Kenny Ng URL in the future and a squeaky clean slate, since that is usually what happens when one has been surfing the Internet looking for Hot Anal Asian Action, and discovers that the tasty thumbnail depicting a Tokyo stewardess ravaged by black men instead delivers a nasty venereal surprise directly to your hard-drive.

The View from Above

Stickman: The Naughty Webmaster for Naughty Boys

Posted in สะพานลอย with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2012 by สะพานลอย

It is interesting the way my reading patterns of the Stickman site have changed over the years. Lek and I cannot recall with certainty when we first encountered the site, but one thing is certain. In approximately 10 years, the aesthetics (if one would even call it that) of the site itself have not been modified at all, and seem stuck in a place in the history of the Internet that recalls a period of time when people actually still used the word “webmaster”, a term that now strikes us as downright silly.

In the thirteen years or so since the Stick has been stuck in 1999, everyone has in essence become a “webmaster.” Hell, Big Baby Kenny Ng, the bloated professor of bar girl economics and sex tourist from California, might justifiably call himself a “webmaster”, even though the only thing he has ever “mastered” is the fine art of not getting his dick stuck in the zipper of his trousers.

At first glance, it seemed that the Stick is comfortable with the dubious layout of the site, and Saphan Loy, for one, was content to let it go once we discovered a way to circumvent the minefield of banner advertisements (yes, they still exist) strategically placed so that an errant click by an alcoholic sexpat would create, what is it, like $.035 revenue per click to fill the Stickman’s coffers?

At that rate, the Stick may one day enjoy a jet-setting lifestyle similar to celebrity blogger Big Baby Kenny Ng, or high-profile writers like Dean Barrett and Stephen Leather. Or even, if he dreams big enough dreams, Christopher Moore.

“I know your price. And I’m buying. Buying something for myself this night.”

Speaking of Moore, the “naughty” darling of the sexpat/bar crawling crowd, Saphan Loy was recently gifted a copy of the miserably written and horribly plotted A Killing Smile, which Lek and I picked up the other day here in the executive suite of Saphan Loy headquarters while enjoying a tall glass of lemonade post-coitus. Jumping around the book a bit (which is easy to do because all of the words that are strung together sound exactly the same and make no sense whatsoever), we came across the following passage:

At Headquarters [Thermae Coffee Shop], Lek and her friends became the grammar for the abstract words “sexy,” “good,” “beautiful” giving those words faces and flesh and emotions. They floated around the floor like dreams auctioned off to the first farang who gave that discreet nod, wave of the hand, or an of the other signals that meant the same thing. “I know your price. And I’m buying. Buying something for myself this night. Something I can’t point out but I find outlined in the way you dress, walk, and smile.” And they created the illusion that each farang was part of their dream and the promise in each gesture and glance that their world of smiles lacked nightmares.

Shortly after reading this passage aloud to my sexually sated Lek, who lolled about on the leather couch in the executive suite with nary a stitch of clothing, like the kind of Siamese woman you see in old Daguerreotypes from the 19th century bathing in a muddy river naked to the world (and she did in fact get damp patches all over the fine Corinthian leather in places), I then asked her to become the “grammar” for far less-abstract words like “blowjob now” and “get me another ice cold beer from the refrigerator.” I know what you are thinking, and I am the first to agree. Yes, pretty “naughty” of me.

So what is with the Stick’s use of “naughty bar” or “naughty boys”? Think about it. If a friend of mine told me one day that he was planning a trip to Bangkok, and I responded by saying “Great town. Say, you’re not planning on going to the ‘naughty’ bars, are you?” he would likely look at me as though my brain had just been cataclysmically rendered inoperable as the result of a stroke or irreversible brain embolism.

There is something else implicit in the word “naughty.” And it usually means someone “naughty” is about to get a spanking. Yes, Dean Barrett, that would mean that you are. Now bend over, and take your buggering like the “naughty” man-whore that you are. My question, then, is this: do the ‘naughty’ boys who ‘partake’ in the ‘naughty’ nightlife of Bangkok therefore deserve a spanking from the ‘naughty webmaster’ himself?

Listen, you naughty girl! I am a Webmaster! Get it through your pretty little head. Do I need to spell it out? W-E-B-M-A-S-T-E-R!

No wonder then that this week, the Webmaster plugged the BarBar bar, which is where one can pay to indulge in a bit of fetish play — that is, if you are ‘naughty.’ In BarBar, where Saphan Loy (pre-Lek) once enjoyed a cocktail or two, one is treated to a scene of your choosing. For my benefit, one of the Isan farm girls trotted out a young minx in a school uniform (her slave) and forced the young fawn to kneel at my feet, while the mamasan hovered about trying to get me to purchase lady drinks for all and sundry. Or should that be “slave and Mistress drinks?”

Excepting the hard pressure salesmanship of the mamasan, all in all it was so far, so good. Or should I say, so far, so naughty? After all, the Siamese sin-seller at my feet was stunningly beautiful and played the part of my slave quite convincingly. She was so stunning in fact that, because of my advanced age, I started to hyperventilate.

We won’t bore you with the details of what happened after I started to hyperventilate, as it involved a “nurse” with an extraordinarily “naughty” disposition and a satchel of undoubtedly non-standard medical devices. But should you have a fantasy that you would like to have played out in a darkened playroom in a tropical Southeast Asian metropolis, you would do well to pay them a visit at BarBar.

Saphan Loy’s only complaint is that the staff could not accommodate my fantasy with the staff on hand or the crude bondage equipment on offer. I had shared with the mamasan that my fantasy would be to convert the entire premises into a garment factory, complete with sewing machines staffed by the lovely ladies, where I would be the “naughty” supervisor and force the women to meet grueling production quotas or receive strange and unusual punishments.

When the fantasy was described to the staff at BarBar, they seemed confused and offered instead a few whacks with a rattan cane, followed by a hot water enema.

So, call us “naughty”, Lek and me, as we dream about our garment factory. And when in doubt, keep in mind the mellifluous words of Mr. Moore.

“I know your price. And I’m buying. Buying something for myself this night.”

And should you find yourself feeling”naughty”, and that a visit to the “naughty” bars of Bangkok is in order, you should ask yourself: What would Elvis do?


The View from Above

Dean Barrett’s Retirement: Whips, Chains, and a Spanking

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

Stick reported last week that Dean Barrett, Saphan Loy’s favourite pulp fiction typist, has retired to a life of kinky abandon in Thailand where he has retreated to Demonia and Bar Bar for regular spankings and assorted torturous pleasures. And foot fetish nights. We find it hard to fathom: I mean, when he sits down to read his latest copy of AARP magazine, is his ass sore from the bullock-whip? For Saphan Loy’s international readers, the AARP is the American Association of Retired Persons, and they send a nice magazine every month to remind you that you are now an old man with erectile dysfunction. It therefore provides lots of editorial space to advertise Viagra products. These ads show men driving old convertibles, wind whipping through their toupees, a sated old bag seated next to them with a big toothy grin on her dentures. These kinds of ads are coy. Why don’t they simply show a rock hard erection thrusting pneumatic-like into a gaping Asian gash in some hell hole of the developing world? In fact, were it not for the advertising support of Viagra, it is likely that the AARP magazine would quietly fold, its elderly staff of crestfallen writers and editors given pink slips. It would become a dusty relic of nostalgia. Much like Dean Barrett’s output of bar fables.

Betty White and Dean Barrett: Perfect Together

A coy Viagra advertisement

One of the things possible, we suppose, is that you can now apply for, as Mr. Barrett has done, a “Non-Immigrant, Submissive Retiree/Pensioner” visa. That helps Thai immigration suss things out a bit easier. Perhaps the ladies at Demonia can facilitate this? And perhaps, just perhaps, Dean Barrett’s contemporaries, like Stephen Blather, might follow his example, and go gently into that good night, and take their lickings like real men:  at the feet of coconut farmers’ daughters.

Dean Barrett

So what? Okay, maybe we are too hard on the old man. Who wouldn’t want to be lashed to a rubber tree and assaulted by several barefoot Malay/Thai girls run amok? I know Jimmy Smithers would be first in line for that treatment. In fact, and here Saphan Loy is admittedly being indiscreet, Smithers confided in me that one of his many nasty fantasies involves the jungle, a rounded bamboo pole, interrogation, and VC ladyboys. But we are friends, and for all those who write to him to sign his glossy 8 X 10, he thanks you for all the kind attention. And yes, he really is going to be in motion pictures, specifically a tawdry little tale that just wrapped shooting in Chiang Rai called “Luck Be a Ladyboy.” But you didn’t hear it from the Loy.

The View from Above

Sordid Ark Spotted Floating Down the Chao Phraya River

Posted in สะพานลอย with tags , , , , , , , on October 29, 2011 by สะพานลอย

With a ladyboy dominatrix whipping the bare shoulders of the oarsman, Dean Barrett, and with Chris Coles barking orders, a strange and sordid and crudely cobbled together boat was seen bobbing on the Chao Phraya River earlier this evening. Manned by a motley collection of bar girls and ladyboys, the wooden craft did its best to deal with rising waters and several sprung leaks. And not the kind that happens when Barrett wets himself.

In the hold of the little boat, an ailing Bernard Trink was being administered intravenous antiemetics by a topless Khmer girl who also fed him what was left of the provisions, which consisted mainly of 100 Pipers whiskey, durians, some jackfruit, and warm satay. The scene of degradation was, according to bystanders, awful to behold. Barrett, in his loin cloth, looked old and emaciated as he desperately tried to row the craft while the dominatrix lashed him and berated him for his lack of physical strength. Stephen Blather was nowhere to be found, likely hiding in the stern, quaffing warm bottles of Chang and washing down whatever pills he takes to erase his imagination completely.

At this rate the craft is scheduled to enter the Gulf of Siam sometime tomorrow morning, or around the time a new Stickman column comes out. Whichever comes first.

Rendering of the Ship of Fools

The View from Above