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Last Gasp of a humorist

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Last Gasp of a humorist | Thaiger

I used to have high hopes for PJ O’Rourke as the Fresh Prince of American Journalism. If Tom Wolfe had invented the New Journalism in the 1960s, and Hunter S Thompson Gonzo Journalism in the 1970s, PJ O’Rourke broke new ground in the 1980s with Holidays in Hell, fiercely funny dispatches from chaotic hellholes and communist sumps around the world. He would later cover the Gulf War in Give War a Chance, but since then he has been content to rusticate himself in New Hampshire and pontificate on passing political mores. He has written 16 books in total, some of them very funny.

In his new book, he is losing his touch. Great title though: The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way and It Wasn’t My Fault and I’ll Never Do It Again, (Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 2014, 263pp). He has covered this material before. The essence of his life story is that he was born a Boomer in 1947, turned drug-happy hippie radical in the 1960s and reverted to a conservative Republican in the decade that followed.

This book is his meditation on his own generation and it has some good lines. Of his parents’ generation, he writes:
“During the 1960s we would talk about our parents, as a group, in a way that today we would be embarrassed to talk about militant Islamic fundamentalists, as a group. Our depth and breadth of prejudice would shock every one of our twenty-first century sensibilities, if we ever thought about it. Which we don’t because, later still, we got all soppy and sentimental about the Greatest Generation just in time to put them in nursing homes or the grave.”

First, O’Rourke takes us on a jaundiced tour of his Boomer boyhood in 1950s Toledo, Ohio: street games, summer camp, scouting, Sunday school, sports and schoolboy pranks.
“Meanwhile, what were the girls doing? I don’t know. Boys didn’t notice. Boys didn’t notice anything that wasn’t loud, fast or about to explode. . . And girls weren’t married to us yet, so we didn’t make them explode.”

Then came the teenage years and the vital discovery of beer. “Beer was the multivitamin of Baby Boom male adolescence… Beer made us brave, cheerful and sick all over the kitchen floor. The effects of beer were extraordinary. What else could have made a teenage boy mop the kitchen?”
Why was this generation so opposed to the Vietnam War?

“The Baby Boom was having a party, and the Vietnam War interrupted it. Try it yourself. Go to a beer blast at midnight and suggest all the guys leave, get buzz cuts and do push-ups.”

And then came drugs. “Ring around the roach clip. Pocket full of bad trips. Grass, speed, acid. We all fall down. Spinning and giddy, we spoke as children, understood as children, thought as children, and instead of putting away childish things we got put away for them – in jail and mental institutions.”

I could go on cherry-picking clever quotes, but the general tone of this book is meandering and flaccid, straining for jokes and settling for puns and word play. This is the literary equivalent of vaudeville slapstick: anything for a laugh.

Only at the end does O’Rourke rise to a rhetorical crescendo of good sense. Observing that Baby Boomer values – “We’re willful, careless, rash, vain, indulged, and entitled.” – have taken over North America, Europe and the wealthier parts of Asia and South America. He notes that this bodes ill for leaders of men bent on world domination. “For totalitarianism to work, everyone has to keep a straight face,” he exclaims.

“The Baby Boom was laughing at the communists. Finally, on November 9, 1989, the East German communists, being sensitive to ridicule the way Germans are, gave up on Marxist/Leninism, and the Berlin Wall came down.”

Boomers around the world respond with gales of laughter to strutting dictators, “looking around for their followers and wondering why everyone is following Keith Richards. It will be a terrible world for Authority. The Baby Boom will not countenance it. We turn our face from Authority. Indeed, we turn our ass toward it. We moon Dominion.”

— 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.

Entertainment

Sex toys popular in Thailand despite conservative laws

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Sex toys popular in Thailand despite conservative laws | Thaiger
PHOTO: In Thailand, sex toys are very popular and very illegal.

While Thailand is a conservative country with conservative laws, the underground sex trade and sex toy economy is a thriving not-so-well-kept secret. Thailand is famous for its LGBTQ acceptance and red-light districts, but many don’t realise that most drugs, gambling, soliciting for prostitution, sex toys, and even vaping are against Thai law.

The customs department confiscated more than 4000 sex toys just last year, and owning or selling these toys carries a 60,000 baht fine or up to 3 years in jail. The strict laws are in place to align with the traditional Buddhist Thai society but seem very contrary to the underground sex industry Thailand is known for.

The need for sexual privacy rights and relaxed laws governing sex has been gaining popularity for years with the juxtaposition of strict laws and hedonism creating a very profitable black market. Bangkok’s red-light district is estimated to be worth US $6.4 billion, and in districts like Soi Cowboy, Nana, Patpong and Silom, sex trade and sex toys are sold openly even though it violates the law. The sex industry is thought to comprise up to 10% of Thailand’s gross domestic product. Then there’s Walking Street in Pattaya, Bangla Road in Phuket, etc, etc.

Still, Thailand is a Buddhist country with traditionally conservative values so laws are unlikely to change anytime soon. Even sex education in Thailand is geared towards the negative consequences of sex and not open to sexual rights or embracing sexuality, according to a UNICEF report in 2016. Those who oppose decriminalising sex toys and the sex industry believe that embracing it legally would lead to a rash of sex-related crimes.

Others argue that decriminalisation would be liberating and empower women by reducing the stigma of being sexually free. It would allow a modernized view on sexual well-being. It would also likely reduce teen pregnancy rates, by removing the negativity towards those who need or use contraceptive.

Nisarat Jongwisan has been fighting for the destigmatisation and legalisation of sex toys since 2018 when she appeared on a TV program speaking out against the Ministry of Culture. She now intends to use the Thai parliamentary mechanism for creating a petition and gathering 50,000 signatures, which would allow her to submit a bill to the parliament for a vote.

With strict laws, the black market will continue to grow. While sex toys and the sex trade can be criminalized, sexual desires are not easily quashed, and people will find ways to satisfy them. Without any regulation, black markets can profit freely, selling sex toys with no concern over fair pricing or quality control. The global sex toy industry sold nearly US $34 billion dollars last year, and with continued lockdown and the closures of entertainment venues, these sales are set to only increase, even in the face of Thailand’s conservative laws.

SOURCE: Vice

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World

Is this the next big change in pop music? The winners of the IFPI Global Recording Artist of the Year Award, BTS

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Is this the next big change in pop music? The winners of the IFPI Global Recording Artist of the Year Award, BTS | Thaiger

2020 IFPI Global Recording Artist of the Year Award. In the past 8 years the IFPI Global Recording Artist of the Year Award has been given to Ed Sheeran, Adele, One Direction, and Taylor Swift and Drake. BTS are backed up by ARMY, their huge fanbase.

The power of ARMY. The IFPI represents the recorded music industry worldwide. It’s not a Grammy or a popularity vote. The award is calculated according to an artist’s or group’s worldwide performance across digital and physical music formats during the past year. Everything from streams to vinyl, CDs and downloads…. and covers their entire body of work. The award was announced last week at the culmination of the IFPI Global Artist Chart, which counted down the top 10 best-selling artists of the past year.

And it’s certainly been a great year for music… not so much for going to live concerts but we’ve certainly had a lot more time to listen to our favourite artists and stream their clips on YouTube.

The group that won this year, based on their pure sales, actually came second in 2018 and 7th in 2019, so it isn’t some statistical blip on the music radar.

The win also represents somewhat of a quantum shift in world music… the sort of thing that only happens once in a generation. Rather than the popular cross-over style shift represented by the George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in 1924, the brith of rock with Bill Haley in 1955 or the rise of British pop in the 1960s, personified by The Beatles, this year’s IFPI signals another generational milestone in tastes, method, world reach and engagement with fans.

In all the right-hand turns of the popular music genre, there has usually been a technological breakthrough that has accompanied them, or at least been a key aspect of their success.

In the case of the the Great American Songbook, the foundations of the pop music genre, it was the recorded record and the start of radio-as-entertainment in the 1920s that provided a method to reach a huge audience with the new sounds and tunes for the first time.

Then it was the 7” single that made music cheaper and easier to play, that revolutionised the radio music formats of the 1960s and provided the perfect vehicle of the British pop revolution to spread around the world.

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Tourism

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

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Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO | Thaiger

There was the original Covid-19 outbreak and lockdowns back in April and May in 2020, then again just before Christmas and New Year when the new clusters emerged in Samut Sakhon and the eastern coastal provinces, Patong’s nightlife was quiet enough, almost non-existent.

Now when the restrictions are lifted, Nimz will take you through Phuket’s famous nightlife spot Bangla Road, Patong Beach and Phuket Town. It’s quiet, but there are still clubs open and operating and ready to welcome you.

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