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Phuket Books: Fair game in the Windy City

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Books: Fair game in the Windy City | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: Thomas Pynchon’s epic 1000-page novel Against the Day opens with a boy’s adventure tale: the arrival of the Chums of Chance aboard their airship at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. In The Devil in the White City (Vintage Books, New York, 2004, 447pp), Erik Larson describes just such a dirigible arriving at the Fair at the climax of its July 4 celebration. The message in both books is the same: the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair is the harbinger of all the technological American marvels of the 20th century – for good or for evil.

For good, we have the superhuman exertions of architect Daniel Burnham and his team of a dozen other eminent architects in putting together the huge exhibition buildings and landscaping marvels that dwarfed the Paris World Fair of 1890. In lieu of the Eiffel Tower, there was the majestic Ferris Wheel that lofted 2,000 passengers at a time for a view of Lake Michigan and the whole of Chicago. The new American city was announcing its arrival in place of the capitals of the Old World.

The Fair was the White City, ablaze with the new electric lighting, free of urban crime and filth. “The fair taught men and women steeped only in the necessary to see that cities did not have to be dark, soiled and unsafe bastions of the strictly pragmatic,” the author writes. “They could also be beautiful.”

For the evil in the White City, we have the sordid example of the serial killer Dr H.H. Holmes who constructed a square block of hotels, shops and restaurants to cater to the influx of visitors to the fair. A handsome blue-eyed con man, he charmed dozens of women and children, only to suffocate and incinerate them, keeping some of their skeletons for sale to medical schools. Yet to appearances, he was the most pleasant of men. In the terms of the day, he was a “moral imbecile”.

Frank Geyer, the lawman who finally brought Holmes to justice, offers this chilling, thumbnail portrait: “Holmes is greatly given to lying with a sort of florid ornamentation and all his stories are decorated with flamboyant draperies . . . In talking he has the appearance of candor, becomes pathetic at times when pathos will serve him best, uttering his words with a quaver in his voice, often accompanied by moistened eyes, then turning quickly with a determined and forceful method of speech, as if indignation or resolution has sprung out of tender memories that had touched his heart.”

These two tales of Burnham and Holmes, Larson tells on parallel tracks: one of pride and progress, one of eternal evil. Together they make for a powerful story, worthy of the book’s subtitle: “Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America”.

The book is nothing less than a vivid visitor’s guide to a fair that lasted six months and served notice that a new power had arrived on the world stage. In the fairways, Egyptian belly dancers mingled with Arab, Asian and African villagers.

“Indians who had once used hatchets to bare the skulls of white men drifted over from Buffalo Bill’s compound, as did Annie Oakley and assorted Cossacks, Hussars, Lancers and members of the US Sixth Cavalry . . . Chief Standing Bear rode the Ferris Wheel in full ceremonial headdress with his two hundred feathers unruffled. Other Indians rode the enameled wooden horses of the Midway carousel. There were Paderewski, Houdini, Tesla, Edison, Joplin, Darrow, a Princeton professor named Woodrow Wilson, and a sweet old lady in black summer silk, flowered with forget-me-knots named Susan B. Anthony.”

Not to mention Teddy Roosevelt, Diamond Jim Brady, Lillian Russell and a blind teenager named Helen Keller who gave the inventor of the Braille typewriter a big hug. Mark Twain came to Chicago, but fell ill and spent 11 days in a hotel room without seeing the fair. “Of all people,” comments the author.

Unnoticed among the millions of visitors and a workforce of thousands was “a carpenter and furniture-maker named Elias Disney, who in coming years would tell many stories about the construction of this magical realm beside the lake. His son Walt would take note.”

The book is available online or by ordering through all good bookshops in Phuket.

— 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.

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Thai Life

UPDATE: Thai Cabinet approves civil partnership bill

The Thaiger

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UPDATE: Thai Cabinet approves civil partnership bill | The Thaiger
PHOTO: VOA News

NOTE: Yesterday, The Thaiger referred to the bill as allowing “same sex marriage”. Our headline was incorrect. We have corrected the story with updated information. We apologise for the error.

The Thai cabinet yesterday endorsed a bill allowing registration of same-sex couples, as well as legal amendments to ensure same-sex couples have the same rights and privileges as opposite-sex couples. The bill and the amendment will now be put to a vote in the Thai parliament.

The government’s deputy spokeswoman says the new Civil Partnership Bill and the amendment to the Civil and Commercial Code will “ensure fairness for people of all gender identification”. The bill defines civil partners as couples born with the same sex. Marriage registration will be available to consenting same-sex couples who are at least 17 years old. One or both must be Thai.

“The Civil Partnership Bill is a milestone for Thai society in promoting equality among people of all genders… This strengthens the families of people with sexual diversity and is appropriate for the present social circumstances.”

But the bill is already coming under heavy criticism. A “No to Civil Partnership Bill” hashtag is trending on Thai social media saying the new bill isn’t equivalent to marriage. They point out that the bill doesn’t ensure the same rights as those enjoyed by heterosexual married couples, and it doesn’t recognise engagement of same sex couples.

Minors who seek such civil partnership certification must have the consent of their parents, legal guardians or a court.

Spouses of civil partners will have the same legal rights as married husbands and wives, notably including with regard to personal and jointly-held property. Civil partners can adopt a child, or a partner can adopt an adoptive child of a spouse. When a partner dies, the survivor will have the same inheritance rights as conventional married couples under the Civil and Commercial Code. Sections of the code concerning married couples will also apply to civil partners.

Some of the key points of the Bill include…

  • Consenting same sex couples, who want to register their partnership, must be at least 17 years old and at least one must be a Thai national
  • In case the same sex couple are minors, they must have the consent of their parents, guardians or the court. After the registration of the partnership, the minors will be regarded as adults
  • Either member of the same sex partnership can act on behalf of the other, as with a heterosexual married couple.
  • A same sex couple can adopt a child
  • In case one of the partners dies, the survivor has the same rights and duties as a surviving heterosexual spouse

The Justice Ministry, which proposed the bill and the legal amendments, will monitor the effectiveness of the changes and plan other legal amendments to ensure compliance with those already enacted.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Thai Life

UPDATE: Thai Cabinet approves civil partnership bill

Jack Burton

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UPDATE: Thai Cabinet approves civil partnership bill | The Thaiger
PHOTO Gay Star News

The Thai cabinet has today endorsed a bill allowing registration of same-sex couples, as well as legal amendments to ensure same-sex couples have the same rights and privileges as opposite-sex couples. The bill and the amendment will now be put to a vote in the Thai parliament.

The government’s deputy spokeswoman says the new Civil Partnership Bill and the amendment to the Civil and Commercial Code will “ensure fairness for people of all gender identification”. The bill defines civil partners as couples born with the same sex. Marriage registration will be available to consenting same-sex couples who are at least 17 years old. One or both must be Thai.

“The Civil Partnership Bill is a milestone for Thai society in promoting equality among people of all genders… This strengthens the families of people with sexual diversity and is appropriate for the present social circumstances.”

But the bill is already coming under heavy criticism. A “No to Civil Partnership Bill” hashtag is trending on Thai social media saying the new bill isn’t equivalent to marriage. They point out that the bill doesn’t ensure the same rights as those enjoyed by heterosexual married couples, and it doesn’t recognise engagement of same sex couples.

Minors who seek such civil partnership certification must have the consent of their parents, legal guardians or a court.

Spouses of civil partners will have the same legal rights as married husbands and wives, notably including with regard to personal and jointly-held property. Civil partners can adopt a child, or a partner can adopt an adoptive child of a spouse. When a partner dies, the survivor will have the same inheritance rights as conventional married couples under the Civil and Commercial Code. Sections of the code concerning married couples will also apply to civil partners.

The amended Civil and Commercial Code will prohibit a man or a woman from getting married if he or she already has a civil partner. A man or a woman can face a divorce lawsuit if he or she treats someone else as a civil partner.

Some of the key points of the Bill include…

  • Consenting same sex couples, who want to register their partnership, must be at least 17 years old and at least one must be a Thai national
  • In case the same sex couple are minors, they must have the consent of their parents, guardians or the court. After the registration of the partnership, the minors will be regarded as adults
  • Either member of the same sex partnership can act on behalf of the other, as with a heterosexual married couple.
  • A same sex couple can adopt a child
  • In case one of the partners dies, the survivor has the same rights and duties as a surviving heterosexual spouse

The Justice Ministry, which proposed the bill and the legal amendments, will monitor the effectiveness of the changes and plan other legal amendments to ensure compliance with those already enacted.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Entertainment

Future of Bangkok’s iconic Scala cinema building uncertain after closing

Maya Taylor

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Future of Bangkok’s iconic Scala cinema building uncertain after closing | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Supanut Arunoprayote/Wikipedia

Cinema lovers and theatre employees are mourning the closure of Bangkok’s legendary Scala cinema after 51 years in business. The theatre was the last one to remain independent in the capital, amid an expanding landscape of multiplex cinema chains. Khaosod English reports that many Scala lovers turned out to bid farewell to the theatre prior to its final screening on Sunday evening.

The Scala’s lease ran out at the end of June and Chulalongkorn University, which owns the building, has not made any statement on what its future plans may be. For Phiboon Phorchaiyarach, who has worked as an usher at the theatre since 1981, the Scala felt like a second home.

“I feel sad. I’ve worked here since I was 21. I’m impressed every day I come to work, it’s like my second home for me.”

He recalls the Scala’s popularity in the early days of his career, mourning the death of the independent movie theatre in favour of modern technology.

“The theatre was always crowded. People lined up all the way to the downstairs to get their tickets punched. Nowadays there are CDs and mobile phones where everyone can readily enjoy what they want to watch. Coming to theatre is not a special moment anymore.”

The Scala belonged to the Apex chain of theatres, which also owned the Lido and Siam theatres. The Lido is now a multiplex and mini-mall, while the Siam theatre burnt to the ground in 2010 as political protests rocked Bangkok.

Nuphu Chayalat, a 63 year old concession stand worker, worked at the Lido for 18 years before moving to the Scala. She recalls watching her favourite films at the Scala, adding that one of them, James Cameron’s Titanic, drew huge queues.

The Scala was named after Milan’s renowned Teatro alla Scala and its first screening upon opening its doors on New Year’s Eve in 1969 was The Undefeated. Over the weekend, those visiting for the last time, were treated to screenings of a number of classic movies, including 1966’s Blow Up and CinemaParadiso, whose soundtrack composer, Ennio Morricone, passed away yesterday.

SOURCE: Khaosod English

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