Saturday, September 30, 2006

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE

It is the day before yesterday. I am rudeley awakened by an earth-shattering explosion. I spring bolt upright in bed (it's about 4 in the afternoon) and look around wildly. A Japanese dude is casually pulling on a tshirt at one end of the backpackers' dorm. Bomb? i ask. He finds this incredibly funny. Bomb, he repeats, laughing. Bang! he says, throwing his hands apart. Hahaha! Bang! Ha ha. Bomb! I look out the window at the black thunderclouds and realise my mistake. It begins to pour with rain. In southern Thailand, where Muslim insurgents are operating, a bomb is a definite possibility. But not in Bangkok. For the next couple of days, every time i see this Japanese joker, it's Bang! Hands spread. Hahaha! He finds this inexhaustibly amusing. Yes, i nod, it's very funny. Very very fucking funny indeed.

Thankfully today he has moved on. Hopefully to Southern Thailand.

So i take a hair-raising scooter ride across town, instead of the hair-raising taxi boat. On the way up the expressway on-ramp, i'm thinking perhaps i might have followed the scooter driver's lead, and worn that helmet i now spy languishing in the front basket. Next time, perhaps. He drops me at the temple.

According to my map, Government House is across the road from this Wat Benchamabophit (The Marble Temple). Which it kind of is, although the map is misleading and i have trouble getting my bearings in Bangkok because i so rarely see the sun. And not only because of the nightlife. Daytime is just an all-over haze, with light coming from no particular direction. And tall buildings are no good as landmarks, because there are billions of them.

Eventually i find my way to the seat of political power in Thailand. That'll be it, where all those tanks are parked. Where those roadblocks are guarded by armed soldiers. I wander over. The military coup has become a sideshow. Traffic stops on the side of the road by one of the roadblocks, and locals jump out to take pictures. The tanks are adorned with yellow flowers and red roses. Local Thai people are having their photographs taken, standing with the soldiers, and in front of the tanks. The soldiers oblige with stoic, poker-faced expressions.

I photograph a two-year-old boy in Thai Army camouflage gear, holding a plastic machine gun, sitting on a tank. An old grey-haired lady clutching a white poodle, standing in front of another tank. A school group passing through, young girls in school uniform coming to see Thai democracy in action. A Thai Special Forces soldier inside the Government House perimeter. It's all quite surreal. A vendor rolls up pushing a handcart of iced drinks. Mmm, cold mandarin juice. 20 baht.


That evening, Jules, Ned and Carlo (pictured here in his undercover guise as a tourist) drag me around the bars of Bangkok. These three get me substantially plastered, completely against my will. Four in the morning finds me coerced into buying cartons of fruit juice at a supermarket for local ladyboys who describe to me, in great detail, their various medical procedures. Nose jobs, teeth whitening, breast implants, and the kind of extreme nip-n-tuck that makes your eyes water. When they find that i am a photographer, they offer to take me to an hotel and perform 'lesbian sex' for the camera. 300 baht, hotel room included, they say, proudly showing me their boob jobs. Yes, yes, very nice work, i nod. My compliments to the surgeon. No thank you.

The earlier part of the evening was no less bizarre. Somehow, thanks to my alleged friends, i found myself on stage in the night's endless succession of go-go bars holding a yellow balloon, which is burst by a woman firing projectiles from a blowgun. She elected to do this lying on her back wearing only a pair of thigh-high black boots. The darts were fired by a rather unusual method. As was the way Ned had his cigarettes lit. More balloon bursting followed, including one placed between my legs. My 'friends' found this uproariously funny. Perhaps they should also be packed off to southern Thailand.

It goes without saying i am nursing quite a headache this morning.

Friday, September 29, 2006

ON THE KLONG

This morning i'm jumping on a taxi boat to cruise down the klong to Government House, see if i can get some better pictures of soldiers. I want tanks. Tanks and flowers. The taxi boats are mad, you literally have to jump on and off, they don't stop still till they reach their destination. The boatman who does the indian rope-and-bollard trick communicates with the driver with an eardrum-perforating whistle. One whistle means slow, two means sideways, three short sharp blasts means fucking hell you've crushed a passenger's leg.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

WARM & FUZZY MILITARY

The people here spend a lot of time assiduously cleaning floors. There is a woman in a traditional Thai long silk skirt mopping the wooden floor of the building opposite. I sit in wooden-walled and water-featured humidity, diligently blogging away. Yesterday at the photo-lab a woman toiled unflaggingly with a cloth at the tiled floor around my feet as i waited for a cd burn. At the mega shopping malls (where on one upper floor Lamborghinis and Maseratis stand before floor-to-ceiling window vistas on the city skyline) cleaners perpetually push broomy mop shaped things around the slippery shiny tiled floors like placidly obsessed automatons.

Cleaning floors is a religion in Thailand. Votive offerings to the God Ajax adorn shrines in front of buildings everywhere. Incense, fruit, drink, carvings ... last night (early this morning?) as Carlo, Ned and i embarked on a long rambling walk through side alleys, off the numbered side streets ('soi') into the Arab quarter, past the Harlem Net Cafe and the Non-Stop Hip-Hop Shop, i remarked how the wooden elephants which stand quietly on some of these shrines wouldn't last five minutes on the streets of any nightclub district in Australia. They would be forcibly liberated. Here, they remain unmolested. Similarly the cool drink fridge, standing all alone on the Skytrain walkway, is never locked when the vendor knocks off, but is itself never knocked off. The city's beggars might show a little more initiative! Instead of cutting their legs off and dragging themselves along a filthy pavement pushing a bowl of one Baht coins in front of them, they could set up a stall selling carved wooden elephants and cool drinks.

A modest enterprise, certainly. But better than sitting about in stairwells with a couple of babies, a cup, and a forlorn expression. Where's the public benefit in that? In a Keynesian world they would all be promptly enlisted in the Army. Hmm. Isn't that where cripples and widows came from in the first place? But even a second-rate cripple or single mother could manage what the Thai Army soldiers are doing at the moment around Bangkok. Which is bugger-all, really. Sitting around card tables, in Humvees or troop carriers. Standing on walkways. Getting their photos taken with passers-by. Photographing themselves with pretty women on their mobile telephones. Harrumph. Nice work if you can get it.



They have yellow ribbons tied to their shoulder-stripes and adorning the ends of their rifles. Yellow is the symbolic colour of the country's revered King, who has given this year's warm and fuzzy military coup the thumbs-up.

Walking down Soi Cowboy, i distractedly eat a bagful of fried locusts, which taste just like fried rice, only crunchy. I wash them down with some Tiger beer.

Stay tuned for further incorrect political analysis from the Kingdom of Thailand. Governments here tend to come and go, but the need for a clean floor is immutable.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

RAINY NIGHTS IN BANGKOK

I love this city. I haven't been here for quite 24 hours yet,

so i can't confirm whether Bangkok is, in fact, full on 24/7. But it does seem to be. The sticker on the airport taxi window, "We honour his Majesty the King", celebrates the 60th anniversary of his reign.

The sidewalk food stalls, where i ate dumplings and noodle soup, under an umbrella, watching a rainy parade of 3am traffic, prostitutes, travellers and an occasional dwarf, are replaced today with a fresh set of stalls, peddling assorted sweatshop produce. The sidewalks are an extended market. Wandered about this morning, down along the San Sap canal. Not much sign of the imposition of martial law, other than armed soldiers here and there on intersections. Well, multinationals run the world. Governments come and go but both capitalism and the weather are here to stay. It's business as usual.

The Buddhist people here are pretty tolerant, but corrupt Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's antics have finally become too much even for them. He recently sold his communications company Shin Corp off to Singapore for $1.9 billion, but his changes to the law meant he didn't pay any tax on the deal. The last elections were boycotted by the opposition. The electoral commission which looked into it was, like most of his government's bureaucracies, stacked with his cronies. So the military seized power, with the tacit approval of the beloved King, while Thaksin was away at the UN. I've got to go and catch the skytrain so my political analysis will have to wait. And it will probably be more informative once i've figured out what the fuck is going on.

Meanwhile i am installed at Suk 11 guesthouse, which is a traditional Thai style haven amidst the sprawling commercial district. It has four floors, a roof garden, a gallery, a day spa and is quite charming. Offerings here and there. Wood panelling, much foliage. A walkway to another building crosses above the street. An array of jars, each containing a single siamese fighting fish. A funny little black cat. Wooden verandahs with low tables and long triangular silk cushions. Paper lanterns. Quiet spaces hidden here and there.

The streets, meanwhile, rock. The amount of fun to be had in Bangkok is limited only by one's common sense.

Monday, September 04, 2006

RUNAWAY BRIDE

Mayhem has defected to MySpace, leaving just this cryptic photograph ... what can it mean? Don't know what her MySpace URL is, but i'm sure if you go there and type in "Mistress of Mayhem 666" you will uncover a dark world populated by Mayhem, Melody and her other cyberspace "friends" such as Chopper Reid and Charles Manson, and girls with names just too weird to mention in polite company. Goodness gracious. I can't search for the Mayhem URL because i'm on a Mac in the Western Independent newsroom at Curtin University, equipped with Websense which blocks my every move on the web. So much for freedom of association.


Mayhem is currently going berserk in her new job as a Personal Assistant. From what can I gather from her sporadic communications from the seething cappucino vortex that is Subiaco, she is working for a promoter who used to do Smash-Up Derbies in large stadia, who has recently discovered the joys of classical piano, and consequently changed tack to bring to us in sleepy Perth the one and only, the champion of shopping mall music, yes, that's right, Mr Richard Clayderman, straight from the tanning salon to the Burswood Casino, complete with backing from the Fremantle Symphony Orchestra. How Mayhem fits into this operation is anyone's guess.

Appearing alongside the pearly white teeth of Mr Clayderman will be Bosnian-born classical guitar player Milica Ilic. (Faithful readers please note, this is NOT my ex-wife Milica Lilic.) Ilic will be accompanied by Desert Child, whatever that means.

Meanwhile yours truly Mark Roy, the art director, is off on assignment to Bangkok to see what's cooking with the military coup in the kingdom of Thailand. And perhaps to catch up with the elegant Hai An, last seen at the Alice Springs Beanie Festival, for a cup of iced coffee by the pool at the Raumchitt Plaza Hotel.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

BANGALORE? BANG ON!

My application to Asialink for a three month artist's residency in Bangalore is in. Hopefully by 2007 I will be writing to you from the wilds of Southern India, preferably from the seat of a Royal Ensign motorcycle, wireless laptop in hand. Living up to my application's claim that I push boundaries: "In my current artistic practice I attempt to push the boundaries between art and documentary photography. I do this through exhibitions of my own work, and by importing exhibitions of documentary photography into Perth. I am particularly interested in working with organisers of the FotoFreo Photography Festival in 2008, and assisting in their engagement with South-East Asia (see fotofreo.com). In July 2006 I set up a web log (see electricnerve.blogspot.com) to explore the ambit of online photojournalism and implement new media in my artistic practice."

So that's what I've been doing in these pages, avid readers. Implementing new media in my artistic practice. (And you all thought I was just rambling). Bangalore. Bring it on.


We can but pray. Art Director out.

Friday, September 01, 2006

HOME DECORATING IDEAS

Avid readers. It's the first day of spring, so out with the old and in with the new. Hi, i'm the electric nerve Art Director and i'm here to help you with a few home decorating tips and ideas for the new season. Now, please don't sue me for saying this, but RED is the NEW BLACK. It's true. My uncle was an electrician back in the sixties, and one morning in 1967 his wife told him red was the new black, as indeed it was back then, and of course he never came home that night. Electrocuted. So please don't take me too literally on my colour advice, especially when doing electrical rewiring around the home. If in doubt, touch the wire with the BACK of your hand, not the front, so that way when your muscles involunarily clench you're not left holding a live wire. OK?

Now, i'm assuming you've all received the nice new Ikea Catalogue in your letterbox, if you have a letterbox, that is, and let's face it, the vast majority of people don't have a letterbox, since the vast majority of people are dead. But let's assume you're alive, and you have the new Ikea Catalogue. Take this catalogue and stuff it in the next door neighbour's letterbox, just in case they didn't get one.

What i'd like to concentrate on today is a design feature for the home. Now this may not be to all tastes, but it's fun to try, and won't cost you an arm or a leg. Firstly, find a couple of square metres of spare floorspace in your lounge room, or even, as i prefer, bedroom. Heck, move the furniture if need be. The second step is to pick up an old motorcycle, preferably pre-1980s, in a colour that matches your existing d├ęcor. Personally i prefer red or burgundy tones, but i'm not about to tell you what colours you should like. Place some cardboard on the floor, say from an old removalists' box, which will contrast nicely with the texture of carpet, and work well with just about any wooden floor. Put the motorcycle on the cardboard, and pull out the engine, placing it to the side of the motorcycle just so. You may like to sit the engine in a plastic baker's tray in a contrasting colour. Wallah. There you have it.


Now on a less serious note. Levity, that's what it's all about. We're going to Melbourne - no, we're levitating our way to Melbourne. Dan is already there, sending back strange found objects in the mail. Swiss bloody vials. And Melinda Mayhem is so high she may be able to hitch a ride on a low-flying jumbo. Reading her sleep-deprived / awake-depraved ramblings i can only really posit the thought "Look what ice did to the Titanic."

Enough said. I have, as Baldrick would say, a cunning plan. All those esoteric books i've been collecting for 'cn years? Art, mushroom growing, photography, histories of ideas and ideas of history, literature of varying degrees of literacy, cultural and critical theory, psychedelia, poetry, Beatnik culture, music, travel, erotica, yoga, journals of LSD experiences, physics, design, gonzo, philosophy - plus a few way out titles - well it's all being packed off to Melbourne come December to a new home, a commercial property hidden away somewhere in the wilds of Brunswick Street, to flesh out a bookstore, to be called Saint Mark's Books and Ephemera, in tribute to St Mark's Bookshop in Greenwich Village, New York. Why Saint Mark's? Well because that's my name. No, it isn't Arthur. Art Director is the moniker Melinda Mayhem plastered me with shortly after our meeting at a particular club where i was photographing like a deranged 'razzi and she was knocking her pretty head senseless on the edge of a basin in the Ladies while acrobatically powdering her nose. And if you throw enough plaster, some of it will stick.

Saint Mark's Books and Ephemera, Melbourne, will be Art Director's new squat and an epicentre for the Mayhem Inc. collective, just as soon as we honour our contract with the Town of Vincent and produce The Ford Maestro documentary - but more on that later.

Perhaps we'll drive across the Nullabor in my 1970 Renault 16? Now that would be comfortable, what with the independent suspension and all. The most comfortable vehicle I've ever driven over any distance! Trundled up to Cue in it in 2004 for Qfest. On 70mph! Unfortunately knocked the drain plug out of the fuel tank whilst climbing rocky outcrops, but hey, it's fixed now. We'll be tooling down Brunswick Street to our new squat before we know it! To build mezzanines; install hot showers; revamp tiny kitchens into chef central. Hopefully, every single thing we do will be against council regulations. Books, art, ephemera, musical instruments, everything for sale and nothing advertised, not even the shop. Especially the shop. We'll keep the location a secret. The prices? Rediculously high, almost unaffordable, although we will of course be open to offers and crude suggestions. Customers will be treated with the utmost contempt; the bookshop run like an exclusive club - we may even have bouncers, to simply not let some people in on random days for no particular reason. Melburnians will love it.

"Spring is an eternal gift." - Art Director