The otherworldly island

4 05 2016

I recently read about Ascension Island, a remote British outcrop in the Atlantic Ocean. Today it is home to a tiny population, much of it servicing the island’s secretive satellite spy base, and governed by an Orwellian figure in London referred to only as The Administrator.

The island’s history has been bizarre from the outset.

When first discovered in the sixteenth century it was uninhabited by humans, as well as any land animals larger than a crab.

It was also dry, a desolate rocky island in the South Atlantic which rose, parched and empty, to a craggy volcanic peak.

It was here that Dutch sailor Leendert Hascenbosch was left marooned by his passing ship in 1725 – condemned to a lifetime of thirst and solitude in punishment for his crime: homosexuality.

British sailors visiting some years later found his tent and diary – which made references to drinking the blood of sea turtles  but not, sadly, of the freshwater spring in the centre of the island. Of Leendert himself there was no sign and the investigators concluded he had died, if not from thirst then from suicide.

The British also kickstarted the next strange chapter in the island’s history. Under scientific advice they planted seedlings on the island’s mountain top, hoping to grow a cloud forest which would trap condensation and change the whole climate of the island. Then they could grow food, gather wood for repairs and use the island as a useful staging post.

The extravagant plan worked. Today the island is lushly forested and green with introduced plants – perhaps the nearest man has yet come to “terraforming” his environment and perhaps a precursor to our further adventures in the stars.





Bangkok round-up: Dancing Under the Death star

7 03 2016

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Thailand’s Khao Sod newspaper reported this week on a deathly grip tightening around Thailand as Uranus, considered by Thai astrologers to be a harbinger of ill portent, neared the end of its long, elliptical journey around the sun.

When this last took place (one orbit takes 84 years,) it coincided with (or caused?) the revolt that overthrew the absolute monarchy…although looking at it another way, it oversaw the birth of democracy in Thailand – such as it is…😉

Temples around the country held special prayer meetings to combat the dark influence of the planet known in Thai as Dao maruet ta yoo, “the star of death”.

It was not all doom and gloom though: revellers danced the night away at a swing and jazz dance festival in the shadow of the famous temple of nearby Nakhon Pathom, as captured in a charming photo essay by Coconuts Bangkok.

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And finally, BK magazine reports on another interesting museum to add to the list of Bangkok sights (together with the new “Museum of Thai Corruption“). This one is a museum collated by sex workers to document their lives and struggles, poignantly titled “This is Us.” The museum was put together by the Empower Foundation, a pro-sex work group dedicated to campaigning for better rights and conditions, and societal acceptance, of sex work. Interestingly, the article points out the price of sex in Thailand – a sum equivalent to ten bags of rice – has not increased in four hundred years!





Death becomes her

7 03 2016

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The bejewelled bodies of Catacomb saints from photographer Paul Koudounaris’s book “Heavenly Bodies.”

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Hanoi’s turtle trouble..

25 01 2016

Australia’s ABC reports:

A giant turtle considered sacred in Vietnam and venerated as a symbol of the country’s independence struggle has died, according to state media.

The turtle’s death prompted an outpouring of grief and stoked fears it boded ill for an upcoming Communist leadership handover.

The reptile, a critically endangered Swinhoe’s softshell turtle occupies a key mythological role in Vietnam, and in the past the turtle generally surfaced only rarely, with its sightings deemed auspicious.

Full story here

 





Meet the “fake Muji”

16 01 2016

 

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Japanese people surprised to find that “popular Japanese store” Meiso doesn’t exist in Japan





The fallout

19 08 2015

While the tragedy of the Erawan bombing is still unfolded, it hasn’t taken long for investigations to take on a typically Thai bizarre twist after model and soap opera star Sunny Burns, originally from Australia, was held up online as a dead ringer for the main suspect.

He responded by going in to the police to clear his name – complete with instagram post from the cop shop – and uttering the immortal alibi: “I woudn’t have worn that, I’m a fashion blogger.”

Police used CCTV footage to corroborate his claim to innocence, that at that time he was on his way to the “muscle lab” (aka, gym).





On the Thai internet

3 08 2015

Two Thai social media favourites of the minute,  both bearing a universal message for our age. Above, an adorable but cocky boyfriend warns of the dangers of smartphone addiction in a video called “So you just gonna ignore me?” and below “Street Nude, Global Warming”, a Facebook page in which artist Ronnachai Kunsiri strips off in nature to highlight the threats to Thailand’s various ecosystems from global warming.

Also, this beautifully edited and oddly moving advertisement, currently screening on the Skytrain: