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Great bowls of fire!

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Great bowls of fire! | The Thaiger

PHUKET: If you are from the Southwestern part of the United States, you already know what a chili cook-off is. However, given that expats in Phuket from that part of the country
probably number less than a couple of dozen, maybe an explanation is due.

A chili cook-off, as described by Wikipedia , is a social event, similar to a barbecue, in which competitors prepare their own particular recipe for chili con carne and submit it for tasting. A cook-off may be in an informal gathering with the single goal of sharing recipes and enjoying food, or it may be a large-scale event with an official panel of judges and substantial prizes for winners.

Is it important? Well, some people must think so. If you Google “chili cookoff” you’ll get about 4,160,000 hits, or Google the more accepted spelling “chili cook-off” for about 16,800,000 hits, and “chili recipes” for a whomping 19,300,000 hits. Compare this to 820,000 Google hits for tom yum kung.

Chili Heads have organized themselves through the Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI), of which your author is a proud member. CASI promotes and sanctions cook-offs, a staggering 550 per year. Their website currently lists 108 chili cook-offs taking place in the next few months throughout 18 states in Southwestern USA, along with Canada and Mexico. These events take place in such colorful places as Telephone and Geronimo in Texas, Chugwater, Wyoming and Tombstone, Arizona. CASI, along with their sister organization the International Chili Society, have raised millions for charities.

Although claims to the first chili cook-off are about as prevalent as claims of the first or best som tum, one can imagine a couple of cowboys after a few cervezas (beers), arguing that “my chili is better than your chili”. Thus, the first chili-cook-off was born.

The judges of Phuket’s own Great Burnin’ Bum Chili Cook-off will judge the various chilis on color, aroma, taste and the all-important after taste. In the interest of time, another characteristic of good chili, the after-glow, which comes quite some time after ingestion will not be a criteria for the judges.

The World Championship Chili Cook-off takes place in November each year in Terlingua, Texas, an old mining ghost town near the US-Mexico border. Terlingua is located adjacent to Carroll Shelby’s ranch, a spread of 550,000 rai (yep, this is Texas). Carroll was one of the founders of the first Terlingua cook-off. You may remember Carroll as the developer of the Shelby Cobra sports cars of the 1960s and 70s. This year marks the 46th year of the Terlingua Chili Cook-off.

One of the sidelights of the Terlingua Cook-off a couple of years ago was the inclusion of a Mexican fence climbing contest in honor of the planned US border fence between Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas. It was rumored that the organizers paid illegal Mexican immigrants US$5 per day to erect the fence. Needless to say, the Terlingua cook-off is not on the official list of US events promoted by the Department of the Interior (our TAT).

But you don’t have to travel to Texas, or even the USA to enjoy a chili cook-off. Phuket will be hosting its very own Great Burnin’ Bum Chili Cook-off at the US Independence Day celebration sponsored by the Navy League-Phuket, at the Air Park on July 6. Y’all come on out and join us. We’re also negotiating with the cook-off contestants to make their recipes available to anyone asking.

Chili, or more formally, chili con carne, is a staple of the Southwestern American diet. Much like the position tom yum kung enjoys in Thai cuisine. This debate over beans or no beans has been raging for years and has divided the chili world into the red shirts (with beans), and the yellow shirts (no beans). You don’t need to declare your colors when you come out to the Air Park as we’ll be sampling both ‘red shirt’ and ‘yellow shirt’ chili.

If you can’t make it to Terlingua this year, come on down to the Great Burnin’ Bum Chili Cook-off at the Air Park on July 6 and cast your vote for the “People’s Choice” best chili.

The Phuket Air Park Family Picnic and Airshow (click here for map) will be packed with fun activities for the kids – all safe and fully supervised (click here for more details).

• Swimming in the lake
• 30m long slip and slide
• Bouncing castles
• Kayaking
• Carnival games
• Clowns
• Family picnic area
• And much, much more!

The Phuket Air Park Family Picnic and Airshow is proudly sponsored by the Phuket Gazette, PGTV and the nationally televised ‘Phuket Today‘ show on True Visions. ‘Phuket Today‘, co-produced by PGTV and MCOT World, will be covering this event. The weekly half-hour show runs eight times a week, every week, on channels 99 and 58.

— Larry Amsden

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

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Entertainment

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival

The Thaiger

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The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | The Thaiger

On the streets, in parks and garages, seven Cuban youngsters spent seven months practising K-pop moves to secure a spot on their dream stage: an appearance in South Korea to imitate their idols. 13 final teams from 80 countries are competing in the 2019 event.

At the grandly titled and government-funded Changwon K-pop World Festival contestants from around the globe perform imitation dances or sing cover versions of the genre’s biggest hits, with thousands of fans cheering them on.

In terms of global heft, South Korea is overshadowed by its much larger neighbours China and Japan, but the event is a way for Seoul to derive soft power from one of the country’s biggest cultural exports. In terms of pop-power, South Korea’s K-Pop is now a recognised world-wide music phenomenon with bands like BTS and Blackpink figuring amongst the other big-hitters on the Billboard charts and outselling their western counterparts with millions of albums and downloads.

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

Finalists for this year

Cuba’s Communist government is one of North Korea’s few remaining allies: when President Miguel Diaz-Canel, successor to the Castro brothers Fidel and Raul, visited Pyongyang last November he was only the third foreign head of state to do so since leader Kim Jong Un inherited power in 2011.

But rather than geopolitics, Havana performer Karel Rodriguez Diaz – whose mannerisms and sleek hairstyle could easily be mistaken for those of a K-pop star – is more motivated by high-tempo beats and superslick dance moves.

“We never had a place with a mirror or a choreographer who could teach us the steps” but they kept on practising, he said.

His team-mate Elio Gonzalez added: “We are so excited to represent not just Cuba but also the whole of Latin America.”

Some 6,400 teams from more than 80 countries entered the competition, according to organisers, with 13 groups from places as diverse as Kuwait and Madagascar winning through to the final in Changwon, where they appeared on stage waving their national flags.

“This is like watching the Olympics, a K-pop Olympics,” said the event’s host Lia, a member of K-pop group ITZY.

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

The Korean Wave

K-pop – along with K-drama soap operas – has been one of South Korea’s most successful cultural exports to date. A key part of the “Korean Wave” which has swept Asia and beyond in the last 20 years, the K-pop industry is now estimated to be worth $5 billion, with boyband BTS its latest high-profile exponent, becoming the world’s most successful band in the past 12 months, selling out stadium concerts within minutes, around the world.

The South Korean government has financed a variety of K-pop themed events in what CedarBough Saeji, a visiting professor at Indiana University Bloomington in the US, said was a form of long-term “soft power diplomacy”.

“When you are covering you get to ‘become’ those idols for the three and a half minutes of the song,” she said, adding that performers will go so far as matching their clothing, accessories and hairstyle to their heroes and heroines.

“The cover dancers of today will be diplomats, news reporters, and business leaders in forty years,” she went on.

“And hopefully they’ll still have a soft spot in their heart for Korea. Korea can’t win the world through hard power – armies, economic bullying – but with soft power even a small country like Korea has a chance.”

The music also provides an artistic alternative for overseas fans, especially those in developing countries, Saeji added.

“The West, especially the United States, has been so dominant culturally for so long, and having a different cultural pole to look to provides hope that one’s own country can experience similar success in the future.”

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

Be who you want

Beneath its glitz and glamour, the K-pop industry is also known for its cutthroat competition, a lack of privacy, online bullying and relentless public pressure to maintain a wholesome image at all times and at any cost.

Sulli, a popular K-pop star and former child actress who had long been the target of abusive online comments was found dead on Monday, with her death sending shockwaves through fans around the world.

“I think a day where (people) would be ashamed of the K-show business will surely come,” a South Korean online user wrote in the wake of the star’s death.

“I think an industry that makes money by (making people) sing, dance, undergo plastic surgeries and go on a diet to please the gaze of others since they are teenagers should really go bankcrupt.”

But for Kenny Pham, a finalist from the US at last week’s contest, K-pop’s diversity – with some tunes having dark themes, while others were “cute” or sensual – is what gives him a sense of liberation.

“I like how expressive you could be,” the 19 year old told AFP last week.

“I feel like it’s a place where you could show the passion you have for music, dance or fashion. No one is bashing you for what your likes are.”

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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Chiang Rai

Journey back to Tham Luang in ‘The Cave’ – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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Journey back to Tham Luang in ‘The Cave’ – VIDEO | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Tom Waller on site during the filming of The Cave – AFP

Determined divers racing against time. Rising waters threatening lives. 12 teenagers and their soccer coach trapped inside for two weeks. A remote cave that most had never heard of.

The stuff of a Hollywood drama, except that it’s all true and happened in Chiang Rai last year. Now the first of several re-tellings of the story comes to the big screen in The Cave.

The ordeal in late June and early July last year had barely ended when filmmakers began their own race to get the nail-biting drama onto cinema screens. The first of those projects premiered at the start of October, when director Tom Waller’s The Cave showed at the Busan Film Festival in South Korea.

The film was shot over three months earlier this year and has been in post-production since then. The 45 year old Thai-British filmmaker says the epic tale of the Wild Boars (Mu Pa) football team was a story he simply had to tell.

“I took the view that this was going to be a story about the people we didn’t know about, about the cave divers who came all the way from across the planet.”

The 13 young men entered the Tham Luang cave complex after soccer practice and were quickly trapped inside by rising floodwater. The boys were forced to spend nine nights lost in the cave, whilst Navy Seal and other diver searched frantically, before they were spotted by a British diver.

It would take another eight days before they were all safe, against all odds, in a risky mission.

Waller was visiting his father in Ireland when he saw television news accounts of the drama.

“I thought this would be an amazing story to tell on screen.”

But putting the parts together after their dramatic rescue proved to be a challenge. Thailand’s government, led by the military NCPO, became very protective of the story, barring unauthorised access to the Mu Pa team or their parents. Waller often feared his production might be shut down.

His good fortune was that the events at the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province had multiple angles and interesting characters. Especially compelling were the stories of the rescuers, particularly the expert divers who rallied from around the world. He decided to make a film “about the volunteer spirit of the rescue.”

Other people proposed telling the story from the point of view of the boys, and Netflix nailed down those rights in a deal brokered by the Thai government.

“I took the view that this was going to be a story about the people we didn’t know about, about the cave divers who came all the way from across the planet. They literally dropped everything to go and help, and I just felt that that was more of an exciting story to tell, to find out how these boys were brought out and what they did to get them out.”

Waller even had more than a dozen key rescue personnel play themselves.

Waller said they were natural actors, blending in almost seamlessly with the professionals around them, and helped by the accuracy of the settings and the production’s close attention to detail.

“What you are really doing is asking them to remember what they did and to show us what they were doing and what they were feeling like at the time. That was really very emotional for some of them because it was absolutely real.”

Waller says his film is likely to have a visceral effect on some viewers, evoking a measure of claustrophobia.

“It’s a sort of immersive experience with the sound of the environment, you know, the fact that is very dark and murky, that the water is not clear.”

“In Hollywood films, when they do underwater scenes, everything is crystal clear. But in this film it’s murky and I think that’s the big difference. This film lends itself to being more of a realistic portrayal of what happened.”

Some scenes were filmed on location at the entrance to the actual Tham Luang cave, but most of the action was shot elsewhere.

“We filmed in real water caves that were flooded, all year-round. It is very authentic in terms of real caves, real flooded tunnels, real divers and real creepy-crawlies in there. So it was no mean feat trying to get a crew to go and film in these caves.”

The Cave goes on general release in Thailand on November 28.

ORIGINAL ARTICE: Associated Press | Time.com

Journey back to Tham Luang in 'The Cave' - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Tom Waller – Associated Press/Sakchai Lalit

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BTS first foreign artists to perform solo concert in Saudi Arabia tonight

The Thaiger

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BTS first foreign artists to perform solo concert in Saudi Arabia tonight | The Thaiger

PHOTO: BTS performing in front of 60,000 fans during their “Love Yourself” tour in Hong Kong – SCMP

No band has ever commanded a concert stage, alone, in Saudi Arabia. Remarkable but true. But South Korea’s BTS is breaking down yet another barrier with tonight’s stadium concert in the Kingdom.

Aside from being their first ever concert in Saudi Arabia, it will be Saudi Arabia’s first ever solo stadium concert by a foreign act. BTS, debuting in South Korea in 2013, have since been breaking records and the ‘Bamboo Ceiling’ to become the biggest band in the world.

In Nam-sik, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy who specialises in the Middle East says that Saudi Arabia is a very conservative country and it is trying to open up more in recent years.

“Until recently, concerts were forbidden, but the country started to acknowledge that people want cultural events. Saudi Arabia wants to show the world that it is changing. Allowing BTS to perform in the country is a significant step in its reform endeavour.”

The leader of South Korean boy band BTS has spoken out about their upcoming concert in Saudi Arabia, saying it wasn’t an easy decision to play in the kingdom which has been criticised over its human rights abuses.

BTS first foreign artists to perform solo concert in Saudi Arabia tonight | News by The Thaiger

“I wouldn’t say it was easy,” said 25 year old group leader and rapper RM, who also speaks perfect English he said he learned watching the sitcom ‘Friends’.

“But we were officially invited. It’s been a while since we’ve performed in the Middle East.”

“If there’s a place where people want to see us, we’ll go there. That’s really how we feel,” added 23 year old singer Jimin.

Industry pundits see this as an important milestone that signifies BTS’ phenomenal world popularity. And if successful, it could open up many more opportunities for K-pop and Korean culture as a whole.

In Saudi Arabia, which still enforces gender segregation based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law, it was only in the past two years that women were given the right to drive, as well as enter stadiums to watch sports games and concerts. BTS’ concert venue King Fahd International Stadium only allowed women to enter for the first time in September 2017.

In July, BTS attracted criticism after they announced tonight’s show in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Some fans pointed out the apparent contradiction between BTS’s tour message,”Love Yourself”, and Saudi Arabia’s criminalisation of same-sex relationships.

Though none of BTS’s members are openly LGBTQ, the group has been seen as sympathetic towards the LGBTQ community, especially compared with other K-pop groups who tend to stay silent on controversial topics.

“BTS will be the first foreign artist to have a solo stadium concert in Saudi Arabia. Things are changing in the Kingdom. The success of this show could open doors to endless opportunities and possibilities,” said film producer Tanuj Garg on his Twitter.

But there’s also been social media backlash against the septet’s concert tour in the Kingdom.

“Artists have been boycotting Saudi Arabia due to flagrant human rights abuses against women activists and the LGBTQ+ community,” one Twitter user said.

“BTS are UN representatives and everyone involved here should have known better.”

BTS has sold out stadiums around the world in a record breaking “Love Yourself” tour in the US, Brazil, the UK, Germany, France, Netherlands, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand and Korea during their sold-out world tour, to a total live audience of over a million (1,044,320 to be precise).

BTS first foreign artists to perform solo concert in Saudi Arabia tonight | News by The Thaiger BTS first foreign artists to perform solo concert in Saudi Arabia tonight | News by The Thaiger

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