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Books: A great love story

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Plot, characterization, dialogue, descriptive style – many elements combine to make a good novel, but the most mysterious is empathy, that magic emotional connection that makes a reader care passionately about fictional characters. In this, first-time novelist Atticus Lish succeeds magnificently.

His Preparation for the Next Life (Tyrant Books, New York, 2015, 417pp) opens with this
sentence:

“She came by way of Archer, Bridgeport, Nanuet, worked off 95 in jeans and a denim jacket, carrying a plastic bag and shower shoes, a phone number, waiting beneath an underpass, the potato chips long gone, light-headed.”

This is Zou Lei, an illegal immigrant, daughter of a Uighur mother from the Siberian steppes and a soldier of the People’s Liberation Army in the heroic Maoist mold. She has come to the United States via Mexico and is plugged into a network of cheap Chinese restaurant jobs at below minimum wage. She is thrown in jail during an immigration sweep on Long Island. When she emerges three months later, she heads for the anonymity of northern Queens – Flushing and Elmhurst – now New York’s largest Chinatown, leavened with Koreans, Indians, Filipinos, Thais and South Americans. Looking for a job, she arrives at a warren of food stalls called Flushing Mall.

“It was mobbed with kids, fifteen-year-old girls shouting, marching with their arms straight, screaming, telling off boys. They sat at the tables, texting, wearing Eskimo boots, their jeans riding low. Adult men lifted their heads like horses, their long, hollow-cheeked skulls, staring. Putting their faces back in bowls, eyes over the rim. Plastic bags, black hair, and sneakers, eating with their long, sharp fingers…You could see the wooden faces of the women in aprons standing, waiting, waiting to serve somebody and, behind them, the kitchens steaming like public showers.”

Here she meets another newcomer to the city, Brad Skinner, native of Pittsburg, recently released from the army after three tours in Iraq, badly wounded in both body and soul, strung out on pills and booze, subject to nightmares and post traumatic stress disorder. He arrives in Queens, humping a duffle bag, an assault pack on his back, weighed down by a 9mm pistol. Meeting Zou Lei seems miraculous to him.

“In his mind, he knew that she was special…She was what he ached for when he had been over there. When he believed he was going to die, the idea of never having a woman to love him had summed up all his pain.”

But his bursts of rage lead to ferocious fights. “When they made up, she experienced powerful well-being. Immortality flowed back into her life like the juice in a plant stem. She immediately began to taste her life again and the two of them would plan for the future.”

Skinner is devoted to lifting weights, Zou Lei to running enormous distances. Both learn from each other. Their love affair holds the reader in its grip, anxious, hopeful, afraid for both as they wander the dangerous streets. She is vulnerable to predators, he to benders and blackouts in strange bars.

The original inhabitants of this section of Queens were the Irish. There are still Irish bars and drunks standing on corners. Skinner rents a basement apartment in a row house owned by an Irish family. The son is in prison and is introduced at the start of the novel’s Part II:

“The white looked like a long-legged biker, as if, instead of being inside these razor-wire-topped walls, he should be leaning back on a chopper going down the highway, with his long legs extended and his boots on the chrome footrests…His mustache made him resemble a wolf. He was pale and large and when he walked, he rose up on his feet like the piston in a motor – up and down – chin always up, an eighth Cherokee, last name Turner.”

A soldier in the Aryan Nation, Turner is released from prison after ten years to find a damaged vet and a Chinese girl living in the family basement. The trajectory of violent conflict is inevitable. And heartbreaking, because the reader has come to care so much about the two lovers.

— James Eckardt

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Protests

K-Pop fans show their support for the young Thai protesters, donate 3 million+ baht

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PHOTO: Fan-funded 'happy birthday' signs around Thailand's BTS and MRT station

Art meets politics again, this time with hundreds of thousands of K-Pop fans raising funds in support of the growing student protest movement in Thailand. So far they’ve raised more than 3 million baht (as of 10am this morning) but the amount is rising quickly as Thai and overseas K-Pop fans respond. The most popular band in Thailand at the moment is BTS, the South Korean septet which is currently the most popular band in the world (as of today BTS commands the Number 1 and Number 2 positions on the US Billboard singles chart).

BTS fans have so far been the largest contributors donating funds to the protest cause.

The BTS Thailand page, not to be confused with the BTS Skytrain, is urging K-pop fans to stop the practice of paying for billboards in support of their favourite idols and to celebrate the birthdays of the 7 members. RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook issued a statement on their fanpage asking fans to stop funding the BTS and MRT “inconvenienced protesters and normal citizens from getting home and putting them in danger”.

Bangkok’s two main rail systems were closed down over the weekend as police and protesters played a cat and mouse game. The protesters were withholding the announcement of protest locations to the last minute whilst police second-guessed their moves, ending up in mass inconvenience for the wider public in shutting down the entire network, including the Airport link.

“We’re calling Armys and other fans to stop buying ad projects with the BTS and MRT.” (“Army” is the name of BTS fans.

Fans of K-pop groups as well as other “idol” groups often pool their resources to purchase display ads in the MRT and BTS stations wishing their stars happy birthday or on other significant anniversaries.

It’s thought that many more millions of baht will be raised by the K-Pop fans in the next few days.

The young Thai protesters are tapping into a strong social media network, and have “weaponised” the social media and messaging platforms. The main App they are now using, to communicate their intentions, is “Telegram”, developed by a young Russian couple but now operating out of Germany. The App features encypted messages, impossible to track, and has 400 million monthly active users.

Telegram is a cloud-based instant messaging, video telephony and voice over IP service with end-to-end encryption for secret chat only, whereas Cloud chat uses client-server/server-client encryption and its messages are stored encrypted in the Telegram Cloud – Wikipedia

Meanwhile, other K-Pop acts that have mobilised their fans win support include Girls’ Generation, GOT7, NCT, WannaOne, Nu’est, X1, Day 6, Red Velvet, MonstaC, Woodz, Shinee, Super Junior and R1se. We’re sure the fans of Black Pink are also contributing but didn’t have their figures available at the time of publishing. Fans of popular Thai actors and celebrities are also donating to the pool.

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World

Rock star Eddie Van Halen loses cancer battle – VIDEO

Maya Taylor

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Rock star Eddie Van Halen loses cancer battle – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Flickr

Rock icon Eddie Van Halen has died, after losing a long battle with cancer. His son, Wolfgang Van Halen, took to Twitter to announce the death of his 65 year old musician father.

“I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning. He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift. My heart is broken, and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from this loss. I love you so much, Pop.”

Born Edward Lodewijk Van Halen in the Netherlands, Eddie Van Halen’s family moved to California when he was 6 years old. Eddie took piano lessons from a young age and went on to become one of the world’s biggest rock stars, forming the band Van Halen with his brother Alex and singer David Lee Roth. The band had numerous hits, including their most successful single, Jump, released in 1983.

Tension between Van Halen and singer Roth saw the latter leave the band in 1985, but he returned for a 2007 reunion tour. A 2012 tour had to be cancelled due to Eddie Van Halen’s health problems, but a 2015 tour of North America was able to go ahead.

Eddie Van Halen had a well-documented history of alcohol and drug abuse and several health problems that impacted negatively on his work. The alcoholism and drug addiction were major contributors to his divorce in 2007 after a 16 year marriage to actress Valerie Bertinelli. In 2015, he spoke out about his addictions and the effect they had had on him personally and professionally.

“I was an alcoholic, and I needed alcohol to function. I didn’t drink to party. Alcohol and cocaine were private things to me. I would use them for work. The blow keeps you awake, and the alcohol lowers your inhibitions. I’m sure there were musical things I would not have attempted were I not in that mental state.”

In 2000, a year after undergoing hip surgery, he was diagnosed with tongue cancer following years of smoking. The diagnosis led to him having part of his tongue removed. In 2002, he was declared cancer-free, but the illness subsequently re-surfaced and he was reported to be receiving treatment again last year.

Tributes from some of the biggest names in the music world poured in Tuesday following news of his death.

From Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi…

“I’m just devastated to hear the news of the passing of my dear friend Eddie Van Halen. He fought a long and hard battle with his cancer right to the very end. Eddie was one of a very special kind of person, a really great friend. Rest In Peace my dear friend till we meet again.”

From Yusuf/Cat Stevens…

“Sad to hear Eddie Van Halen has passed away. A guitar innovator with a fierce spirit of musical and technical exploration. Prayers and thoughts with his family and friends.”

US songwriter Diane Warren said in a tweet that “guitars are gently weeping everywhere. Shred In Power Eddie Van Halen.”

The rocker is survived by his second wife Janie Liszewski and his son, as well as his first wife Bertinelli.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Bangkok

Khao San Road to reopen for Halloween

Caitlin Ashworth

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Khao San Road to reopen for Halloween | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook: The Club Khaosan

The party is coming back to Khao San Road this Halloween. The once booming backpacker district went through a renovation during the lockdown period and now the Bangkok governor says they’re ready to reopen the street.

Khao San Road has long been a district frequented by foreign backpackers. It’s known for it’s grungy and lively bar scene as well as its eccentric mix of street food, like scorpion on a stick. During the lockdown, 48.4 million baht was put into the streets for major renovations like leveling out the road and footpaths, adding some gutters and designating space for emergency vehicles.

Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang says a Khao San Road Halloween party to help stimulate travel. There was talk about removing street vendors from Khao San Road, but the idea got a lot of backlash. Luckily, street food will stay put and 240 food vendors will be set up along the street from 9am to midnight for the Halloween weekend.

Khao San Road will also run a street market and set a stage for performances on the November 28 and 29 as well as News Years weekend, according to Nation Thailand.

Aswin says events are also planned for Loy Krathong and New Years. The area around the street was so packed during last year’s New Years, that streets and alleyways were more like mosh pits. Phones were stolen, fights broke out. It was a mess.

Loy Krathong happens every year on the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar. People make offerings for the water goddess and ask for forgiveness. A krathong is usually made of banana stems, leaves, flowers, candles and incense sticks. It’s then floated down a river.

Khao San Road isn’t known as a place where people ask for forgiveness, but apparently Loy Krathong will be celebrated along with other cultural events, according to Coconuts Bangkok. Loy Krathong happens to fall on Halloween this year.

SOURCES: Coconuts Bangkok | Nation Thailand | Bangkok Post

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