The Diplomat

Very Thai: Street, Style and Society in the Kingdom

How a book by a Bangkok-based British author came to embody a shift in Thai cultural consciousness.

By Jonathan DeHart

Thailand has faced a public relations crisis in recent months. The May 22 coup and the recent murder of two British tourists has cast a shadow over the sunny “Land of Smiles“ image of golden temples, graceful dances and saffron robed monks carrying alms bowls.

But neither political turmoil nor idealized cultural traditions reflect the reality of daily life as it is lived by ordinary Thai citizens. Discovering what really makes the nation tick was precisely the goal of veteran Bangkok-based British journalist Philip Cornwel-Smith when he set out to write his enlightening, encyclopedic and entertaining book, Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture, now in its second edition.

Drawing on a wealth of insight from experts on history, anthropology, sociology and design; and generously illustrated with colorful photographs taken by Cornwel-Smith and American photographer John Goss, the book examines everything from aesthetics to folk arts.

Most significantly, it does so without succumbing to clichés or dwelling on the seedier side of life in Thailand, as exaggerated by media and bar-girl fiction. “The aim of my book was specifically to avoid those sensationalist things and to focus on topics that didn’t get looked at seriously,” Cornwel-Smith told The Diplomat. “I wanted to give a refreshing look at Thailand, to explain ‘low status’ or ‘realistic’ aspects of Thai culture. Not wholly modern, not wholly traditional – these are the criteria for things in the book.”

While a book that shuns hackneyed ideas about the kingdom’s beguiling culture would unsurprisingly be of interest to foreigners, Very Thai struck a chord with the Thai public as well. In the years following the release of its first edition in 2004, the book came to symbolize a shift in Thai society, which was on the cusp of a cultural awakening.

“The book came out at a time when the popular culture just started to become legitimized within the broader culture,” Cornwel-Smith says. “It wasn’t counted as ‘culture’ until that point. Ideas of ‘righteousness’ and ‘prestige’ were part of the official culture. Street life didn’t really fit into that. But it’s unambiguously a form of culture.”

Indeed, street food stalls, motorcycle taxi drivers in multi-hued jackets, cats nibbling on fruit offerings at a shrine, a dog panting in the shade next to a pile of coconut shells, a jumble of power lines sagging above a man dozing on a concrete bench just a few feet from the road where hot pink taxis and tuk-tuks (auto-rickshaws) zip by – these are the common street vignettes that Very Thai accounts for, in impressive detail.

And while the book begins on the street, it goes on to explore all facets of life in Thailand. It is divided into five sections: Street, Personal, Ritual, Sanuk (“fun” in Thai), and Thainess. (It is notable that an entire section is devoted to fun.) The eclectic approach was a natural choice for Cornwel-Smith who says, “I had already been looking at the culture in a pixelated way…doing a city listings magazine and putting together Time Out Bangkok guide.”

Through this “pixelated” view, the book manages to explore the cultural soul of the nation by examining the minutia of daily life: food on sticks, taxi altars, temple fairs, ghost stories, soap operas, beauty pageants, energy drinks.

Other mysteries of the mundane that are explored include quirkily groomed “poodle bushes,” garishly decorated tuk-tuks and trucks, fairy lights, Greco-Roman building facades, the tiny pink napkins found on restaurant tables nationwide, and meticulously coiffed “hi-society” socialites who “actively seek face, invent face, even leverage borrowed face (by borrowing gems),” Cornwel-Smith writes. The book also offers insights on beliefs close to the heart of the nation, from ever-present royal family portraits and the astrological importance of colors to magic tattoos and fortune telling.

Some folk beliefs explored in the book – certain aspects of amulet culture, mediumship and shamanic practices to name a few – still carry a whiff of taboo. But attitudes around these topics are softening, at an alarming speed in some cases.

“The transition of popular culture being accepted within Thailand happened very quickly,” Cornwel-Smith says. An example can be seen in the way tattoos have achieved a higher degree of acceptance in society within a short period. “The social context around tattoos has really changed since the first edition of the book (launched in 2004),” Cornwel-Smith says. “Tattoos are now much more acceptable, partially due to Angelina Jolie getting one.”

Thanks to its diversity of topics, street cred, and striking design, Very Thai has “gone beyond its creators,” Cornwel- Smith says. “It became a source book for those working in design, products, events, theater, among other kinds of work.”

Yet, the book’s reach does not end with the creative class. “They at the cutting edge put it out into culture, which has gradually made it mainstream.”

In a testament to the explosion in soi culture’s popularity, it now forms the basis of a popular theme park, Ploen Wan, which opened in a resort town in recent years. Geared towards Thai visitors, Ploen Wan “includes things like local transportation, old barbershops, general stores, pharmacies…        ‘retro’ stuff,” Cornwel-Smith explains. This form of “retro heritage” even carries a widely known slang epithet now – “Thai Thai” – coined by Suveeranont, who points to Very Thai as an emblem of this sensibility.

Ploen Wan is a physical manifestation of the Thai Thai boom, but a wider following has formed around the book online, where fans are exploring its themes further. “The Internet is a major part of the national discussion around culture taking place in Thailand now,” Cornwel-Smith says.

The Very Thai website serves as a portal on the topic. It features a blog and streams social media postings that use the #verythai hashtag in Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. “These are posted not just by me but by fans of the book’s subject and aesthetic. These hashtags were actually started by fans of the book.”

In some cases, the book itself has been used as a cultural artifact, having appeared in several art exhibitions in Bangkok, Chiang mai, Brussels and Barcelona. It has also been turned into a video installation, formed the basis of a mime production and has even been physically performed with as a puppet on stage, Cornwel-Smith explains. “There are so many ways in which Very Thai has become a cultural phenomenon in its own right.”

How could a book exploring such simple aspects of a culture have such a far-reaching impact in such a short time? Suveeranont sums it up best He wrote in the afterword to the second edition of the book: “The reason is that it reflects a mood, appearing at a time when Thai society began to debate the nature of ‘Thainess’… Cornwel-Smith’s book thus operates at the much wider level of a phi meuang, or Zeitgeist – the ‘spirit of the age’… This book enabled Thais to appreciate that ‘very Thai’ things, which were seen as low-brow, had been part of Thainess all along.”

Very Thai — The Diplomat

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Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #book #e-magazine #features #interviews #popularculture #reviews #Thailand #website 

Thai Indy: Statement or Style?

Talk at Bangkok University’s International College on 5 Nov 2014, 12.30-2pm

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Thailand’s ‘indy’ subculture now spans two decades. Its impact on film, music, fashion, media and the arts have been tracked throughout by writer/editor Philip Cornwel-Smith, in Bangkok Metro Magazine, Time Out Bangkok guidebook and his book Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture. The ‘From T-Pop to Indy’ chapter from Very Thai was reproduced in a book by MTV about Cool Asia; the chapter’s revision in Very Thai’s 2nd edition shows how indy has changed over time. In this talk, Philip addresses the status of Thai indy as a cultural movement, and questions whether it has declined or matured.

The talk is in Lecture Theatre 762, Top floor of building 7 above BUG (Bkk Uni Gallery), reached by the entrance off the intersection of Kluaynamthai with Rama IV Road.

It’s open to the public but within a fixed student time slot, so it’ll start promptly. See you indie fans there!

BU_CREATIVE

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Tags: #academic #art #Bangkok #events #indy #talks #Thailand 

Creative Bangkok 2014

Creative Bangkok logo

Very Thai Thai: How Pop Became Heritage

Philip Cornwel-Smith will speak at the Creative Bangkok international symposium on October 15.

His talk will look at how streetlife, everyday pop and even some cultural taboos have gone mainstream and even become regarded as heritage. The Creative Bangkok event runs Oct 12-17 with 50 talks, 10 workshops, 6 creative team challenges, and related events. Philip will  speak on Oct 15, the day focusing on Creativity in Tourism and Heritage. So the talk will be held at MuseumSiam in the old town at 1.30pm.

Other speakers are from Google, Nasa, Walt Disney, Le Cordon Bleu, duPont, Cirque du Soleil and dozens of other Thai and international companies and organisations.

http://creativebangkok.org

Creative Bangkok Speakers

 

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Tags: #Bangkok #culture #design #international #talks 

Very Thai, Very Volatile

20 Years of Change in Popular Culture

Illustrated talk by Philip Cornwel-Smith,
author of Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture

at Bar Luna, below Casa Luna, Jalan Raya Ubud, Ubud, Bali +62-361-971 605

29 September, 7.30pm-9pm, free entry

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Bangkok-based British writer Philip Cornwel-Smith will give an illustrated talk about the dramatic transformations in Thailand he has witnessed as author/editor of Bangkok Metro magazine, Time Out Bangkok guidebook, and the influential bestselling book Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture (www.verythai.com). Instead of the sensational oriental clichés, he views Thai ways through the lens of its hybrid pop, social tensions and quirky urban culture. There’ll be time at the end to discuss how Thailand’s transformation compares to Bali.

Recent upheavals in Thailand have brought world attention to new stories as ordinary people express themselves and as Bangkok went chic and became the most visited city on the planet. The tropical rural idyll has urbanized and globalised, and taboo things gone mainstream, from yaa dong tonic whisky to magical tattoos. Yet everyday life in Thailand continues to beguile with its wacky hybrids, sense of fun, and unexpected quirks.

A resident of 20-years, Philip Cornwel-Smith has had an insider vantage point to see these changes. His book Very Thai, now in an updated and expanded 2nd edition, has become to the go-to reference and style guide on Thai popular culture.

Very Thai is published by River Books. Copies will be on sale, which Philip can sign.

verythai.com has full details and streams social media by followers of the book using #verythai on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram.

Philip can be contacted via verythai.com , phone +62-821-4444 2022

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Tags: #events #Indonesia #international #talks #Thailand 

Very Thai talk in Bali

Philip Cornwel-Smith to speak in fringe event around Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2014

Ubud writer fest 2014

The author of Very Thai will talk about the book and the current situation of Thai popular culture in Bar Luna at Casa Luna, Jalan Raya Ubud, in the cultural centre of Ubud on the Indonesian island of Bali. The talk will be on September 29 at 7.30pm and copies of Very Thai will be available for sale and signature. The talk is behind held by the organisers of Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, which starts a few days later on Oct 1-5.

For festival details see http://www.ubudwritersfestival.com

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Tags: #book #events #Indonesia #international #talks 

Very Thai given by TCDC to speakers at Creativities Unfold 2014 symposium

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Nine top design gurus receive the book as a welcome gift by TCDC (Thailand Creative & Design Centre) at the 2014 edition of its Annual Symposium Creativities Unfold on 30-31 August 2014. The speakers were:

Patricia Moore (Moore Design Associates),
Koichiro Tanaka (Uniqlo’s global digital campaign creative),
Jan Chipchase (Studio Radio Durans),
Jinhyun Jeon (senses design expert),
Daan Roosegaarde (Studio Roosegaarde),
Edward Barber (Barber Ogersby, designers of 2012 Olympic torch),
Koert van Mensvoort (Next Nature Network),
Krating Poonpol (Disrupt University),
Patrick Waterhouse (editor, Colors magazine)

“Out of all the conferences I’ve been to over 15 years this is the best, most useful welcome gift I’ve received,” remarked Jan Chipchase, who endorsed the book as “A must-read for any trend or research agency that wants their team to better understand Thailand.”

Very Thai has also been presented by TCDC to speakers at some earlier Creativities Unfolds symposiums.

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Tags: #Bangkok #design #endorsements #events #international 

verythai.com Website Goes Live

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 19.23.21The interactive website verythai.com goes live, with full information about the book Very Thai and its many related events, talks, exhibitions, reviews, features, videos and documentary coverage.

Very Thai has had unprecedented involvement and loyalty by its readers for a book on Thailand. To repay that fanbase, now the author offers ways for the public to engage with the book online. You can interact with the VeryThai world in various ways, with live streaming from social media onto the ‘Social’ page of the website. You can post through the Very Thai fanpage on Facebook, tweet using the #verythai hashtag, and post pictures on Instagram using the #verythai tag. All these will stream live through verythai.com. Readers can also post reviews of Very Thai that will appear under Reader Reviews in the Reviews page of the website. You can also send in updates to the author, and suggest topics for future versions of Very Thai and related new books.

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Tags: #events #launch #Thailand 

20 Years of ThaiThai

Phases in Thai Popular Culture 1994-2014

20 Years of Thai Thai talk title

Philip Cornwel-Smith will give a talk on July 1 at Thammasat University to the students of its to the International Programme. Very Thai is one of their set texts. The talk will be a variation on the phases of Thai popular culture that Philip has witnessed during the past two decades in Bangkok.

 

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Rotary Talk: Very Thai Thai

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Bangkok’s oldest Rotary Club hosted a talk by Philip Cornwel-Smith called ‘Very Thai Thai: How Pop Became Culture’. Held at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in Bangkok, the after-lunch speech marked the first time in nearly a year that the author was spotted wearing a suit and tie.
(more…)

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Fah Thai

Bangkok’s Evolving Pop Culture

Fah Thai is the inflight magazine of the boutique carrier Bangkok Airways. This feature appeared in its section called The guide: Thailand in the May/June 2014 issue.

FahThai_May_June_2014

A twenty-year veteran of Thailand, Philip Cornwel-Smith recently released the second edition of Very Thai, a celebration of Thai pop, retro, street and folk culture. The re-release covers the many cultural changes that have swept through Thailand since the first book hit store shelves to considerable success nearly a decade ago.

Through vivid photographs, sharply rendered illustrations and insightful observations, the author pinpoints some of the biggest changes he’s witnessed over the years. One of the most dramatic changes, Cornwel-Smith notes, is the way politics has come to infuse daily life in Thailand, from fashion to soap operas.

The new edition features more than 200 striking images and four original chapters, including a fascinating exploration of the rise and global popularity of the retro ‘Thai Thai’ culture. “Magical tattoos, herbal whisky, Morlam folk music and street food have evolved from low-status taboo into mainstream trends with export appeal,” the author says. What’s more, Cornwel-Smith notes, is that Thai pop culture itself, long dismissed by traditionalists as urban trivia, has acquired social legitimacy and is regularly celebrated int eh media, at museums and at galleries in Thailand and elsewhere.

Most intriguing is his in-depth exploration and explication of quirky Thai icons, historical events and traditions, including the Japanese motor-rickshaw’s transformation into the tuk-tuk, rock’s morphing into festive farm music, the colour-coding of weekdays, floral truck bolts, taxi altars and drinks in bags.

And yet it’s the youth of Thailand that continues to astound the author: “Thais have become the world’s leading users of social media, intensifying their culture of personal networks and relishing online freedom.”

 

Fah Thai is the Bangkok Airways inflight magazine

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Tags: #Bangkok #book #culture #design #features #international #magazine #tourism 

John Burdett: A Greater Sense of Thailand

Our Thailand Top Ten. Books specially selected by John Burdett

Very Thai – Philip Cornwel-Smith

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A colourful, entertaining and surprisingly well-researched work which explains exactly what you are seeing on the streets of Bangkok in a serious of short, pithy and informative chapters. For a visitor who wants to know more but does not have much time, this is the best choice I have come across.

— John Burdett, author of Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tattoo.

 

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Tags: #book #reviews #website 

Thai blog on TCDC talk goes viral

The talk ‘Very Thai Cultural Filters: How Hybrids preserve and project a sense of Thainess’ by Philip Cornwel-Smith at TCDC on March 8 2014 sparked the Thai blogger GeekJuggler to write a post that then went viral.

Geek Juggler was animated by the idea that it is socially easier for non-Thais to do Thai-style design than for Thai designers, whose creativity is constrained by social pressures and taboos about secular use of forms related to Thai beliefs. He and most of the chat thread responders seemed to regard this as probably true and a sad situation in which it is hard to reconcile tradition and modernity. Many in the chat thread reposted the review to other blogs.

Geek Juggler “วิถีแบบไทยๆ” กับคำตอบว่าทำไมความคิดใหม่ๆ ถึงเกิดขึ้นได้ยากบนแผ่นดินนี้

GeekJuggler: Deconstruction is desecration?

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reposted to Pornjeds blog

reposted to Kaebmoo blog

reposted to Zero The Zero blog

reposted to High Lizard blog

reposted to Fukaze blog

reposted to Rand’s Random Blog

reposted to Supawit Wannapila blog

reposted to Nattster blog

reposted to Futurizing blog

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20 Bangkok Years Celebrated in Space

Philip Cornwel-Smith holds anniversary party in [Space] Bangkok

Philip (right) with Pepsi, Steven Pettifor and Craig Knowles in Silom Soi 4 in 1994
Philip (right) with Pepsi, Steven Pettifor and Craig Knowles in Silom Soi 4 in 1994

On 21 March 1994, Philip started a new job, with a new visa and a new home – and a new life. Exactly 2 decades after his first day as founding editor of Bangkok Metro magazine, he marked the occasion with a reunion party of friends. And colleagues from throughout the Intervening years.

He chose Space as the venue because the journalist-run volunteer event space has the kind of impromptu bohemian bars for which Bangkok was famous back in the 1990s. It overlooks the river from the floor above a 7/11 in Khlongsan Market. What could be more Thai Thai?  Among the Space volunteers, Nym, Yvan and Scott helped manage the party, while Craig Knowles acted as a cheeky MC by delivering messages from absent friends, which ran to many pages and with plenty of rubbing and roasting of Philip.

Along the walls the party-goers spotted familiar faces (often their younger selves) in prints of party spreads from Metro magazine parties and the launch of Very Thai. Philip said a few words to thank all those present, and the many friends and colleagues who couldn’t be there. By the end of the night all were feeling the effects of the free yaa dong herbal whisky – or was it the shock of two decades of nostalgia?

Philip being roasted by Jennifer Gampell
Philip being roasted by Jennifer Gampell

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TCDC talk: What are Thai Cultural Filters?

‘Very Thai Cultural Filters: How Hybrids preserve and project a sense of Thainess’

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As part of the TCDC exhibition ‘hello World’, Philip Cornwel-Smith gives a talk today at TCDC on March 8 2014. Called ‘Very Thai Cultural Filters: How Hybrids preserve and project a sense of Thainess’, the talk goes into the ways that Thais are selective about what they import and adapt into hybrids.

Various Thai values, tastes and taboos act as filters to let in only part of the import while screening out aspects that don’t suit. This leads the talk to consider what cultural filters are needed in order to create designs, products and services that can appeal to the outside world while projecting a sense of Thainess. This means looking at what aspects of Thainess appeal (or not) to outsiders and how Thais might go about the tricky task of filtering their own cultural traits so that everyone benefits.

http://www.tcdc.or.th/calendar/detail.php?ID=17826&lang=en

See the talk here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kfp32Km69xU&feature=youtu.be

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20 Years of Thai Thai

Phases in Thai Popular Culture 1994-2014

20 Years of Thai Thai talk title

Philip Cornwel-Smith will give a talk on 6 March 2014 at The National Museum for the National Museum Volunteers’ postponed Lecture Series. The talk was about the phases of Thai popular culture that Philip has witnessed during the past two decades in Bangkok.

 

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Phakinee ภคินี ดอกไม้งาม

Thainess Made of Other Things

By 

http://www.phakinee.com/thainess-made-of-other-things/

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Bangkok. Philip Cornwel-Smith is giving a talk about “Very Thai Cultural Filters: How hybrids preserve and project a sense of Thainess” this Saturday, 8 March, at Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC) at the Emporium.  I am sorry to miss it since I am going abroad tomorrow. Cornwel-Smith is the author of Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture which I have recommended ever in Bangkok von innen since I came across it for the first time.

In his now famous book, Cornwel-Smith tries, among great other reading material, to explain the way how very ordinary things can acquire and produce a common sense of “Thainess” in Thailand. You might get answers to the question how everyday goods and services can be imbued with a marketable “Thai” character during his talk on Saturday,

Quoted from the advance notice:

Thai culture has for centuries been highly porous to outside influence, yet Philip shows how Thais have maintained their culture by localising imports in distinct ways. This can be done through applying traditional materials, techniques and decoration, or by keeping the import’s form whilst replacing its original philosophy with one that resonates to Thais. Instead of direct copying, inventions from elsewhere have been riffed into hybrids that involve a shift in meaning. Thais have even turned Thai-foreign hybrids into icons of Thainess to be reprojected abroad as symbols of the country.Cultural filters that make Thai consumption of imports selective draw from instinctive cultural values. Now that Thailand faces increased global competition, the challenge is to create cultural filters that select aspects of Thainess appropriate to outside consumers.

In short, this talk is going to be about international mainstream and how to impose a Thai identity on it.

I offer a personal view on this subject or perhaps, as I probably should put it more accurately, a comment.

During history, people in Siam at times quickly lost their heads, if they were not mainstream. Still today, some may spend 18 years or more in prison and may loose everything they have including their social recognition), if they are not mainstream.

It is only my personal feeling as a foreigner, that this fact might add to various forms of  “typical” Thai behaviour (with strong foreign elements in it), that most of us would regard as outdated? Or, in some cases, even regard as undignified?

For instance, I do not believe that, 68 years after Nazi-Germany has been buried in the abyss of history, any of us youngsters under the age of 60 is capable to imagine, how a person feels while being forced by strong social constraints to stand to attention twice a day in public while listening to the national anthem which everybody is forced to hear on every public place in the country. A practice, which has been introduced in a time, when European fascist leaders’ personality cult was widely seen as a great role model für Siam.

Possibly apart from devout Christians, most Europeans also can hardly imagine how it feels to seriously “wai” a spirit house in which a strong spirit is known to stay. And very few of us can imagine to cringe in front of persons which are not more human than we are. Finally, how does it feel sharing a great love with all my friends and family for cheaply-produced plastic items that everybody simply “has to have” just to be socially recognized? Do you know? I don’t.

All these “typical” Thai habits have a very strong froreign taste, they are no typical Thai specialties or inventions, despite the fact that some people like to think so.

As for me, for instance, I simply cannot imagine how it feels to stand to attention in public places like a pillar of salt, having to listen to some extremely old-fashioned sounds, which do not really represent my favourite music style and, above all, looking statesmanlike while doing so. This is just because I never did so and I will probably never do.

However, recently at the beginning of my fourth decade of Thailand-experience, I actually started to ask myself once, how I could actually love my own country without having to stand to attention twice a day and moreover, sadly, not even having a king anymore in my country who would be like a father to me? The answer was: I love my country, for instance, precisely for the fact that I am not being urged to stand to attention at any place or to crawl in front of anyone or listening to any music that other people want to put on me.

What I can imagine, however, is this: How a schoolboy would feel if he is the only one in his class without an amulet (or any other fetish) around his neck, or a yellow (or any other) bracelet around his wrist with some magic or special formula printed on it. A magic or a formula which at the same time would be propagated in school, on TV, on public places, just everywhere.

I can imagine the feelings of such a schoolboy, because I might have been this boy myself if I had been born in Thailand. Simply because, as a matter of fact, I am medically allergic to many things, like raw hazelnuts (fortunately I can eat them after they are once heated up for cakes and chocolate…), jackfruit, cantaloupes, latex, and some pollen.

Moreover, I have been also socially allergic to things that “everybody has to do” since I was a lttle boy.

In my fifth class in school, there was a teacher who even wrote this into my school report, of course without any serious consequences except some raised eyebrows in the family. But what would have happened in a mainstream Thai school? Can we rule out that they would not have tried to beat out such a socially unacceptable behavior from me at an early time?

Enough. Please do not miss Philip Cornwel-Smith on Saturday, 8 March at the TCDC, 6th Floor The Emporium Shopping Complex, 622 Sukhumvit 24, Bangkok 10110. If his talks on Saturday are only half as interesting as his writings, it has to be a great lecture.

The talk “Very Thai Cultural Filters: How hybrids preserve and project a sense of Thainess” starts at 2 p.m. Admission is free, but it is recommended to register for a seat at the Online Reservation System or at TCDC Information Counter, phone (02) 664 84 48, ext. 213, 214.

 

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Lonely Planet Thailand

VT in Lonely Planet BKK

Recommended Cultural Readings

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Tags: #book #guidebooks #reviews #tourism 

‘Bangkok: Megalopolis between Order and Chaos’

Swiss NZZ TV documentary on Bangkok features Very Thai in German

NZZ Bangkok between order & chaos websiteVery Thai‘s author is interviewed in a new documentary, ‘Bangkok: Megalopolis between Order and Chaos’, which premières on 27 March 2014 on the Swiss TV channel NZZ Format, which is run by the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Presenter/producer Basil Gelpke interviewed Philip Cornwel-Smith about the state of Bangkok and its popular culture during the height of the ‘Bangkok Shutdown’ protests. The crew filmed at his house and then in the Samsen area, including the Wat In community and the hotel Phra Nakorn Norn Len, which has a very Thai-style decor theme resembling an old market.

The show will air in German speaking countries several times over 2014 and 2015. It is also viewable online at:

http://www.nzzformat.ch/108+M521944f5b87.html

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Tags: #Bangkok #documentaries #German #interviews #TV #video 

— Nancy Chandler Map of Bangkok

‘No other author has delved so deeply into the subconscious of Thai popular culture in such an intriguing, eye-opening way. You’ll love the insights gained from reading this best-seller. Wonderful photography too!’

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— Gerald W Fry, Historical Dictionary of Thailand

‘A delightful read and a wonderful roadmap to diverse elements of Thai Popular Culture.’

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— Vaudine England, Dateline, Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand

‘The publishing sensation of 2004. This book is a revelation of all those things we thought we’d never understand.’

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— The Independent newspaper (UK)

‘Pick of the Picture Books. Very Thai is an attempt to capture the complex realities of Thai culture, a blend of finesse and fun which fuses folk tradition with hi-tech and bling. Here are fascinating glimpses of high life, low life, street life and, er, Honda life.”

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— Andrew Marshall, The Australian

‘Very Thai shines a loving light on the minutiae of everyday life. The book is equally fun and authoritative.’

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— Lucy Ridout, Rough Guide to Thailand

‘Answers and insights aplenty in this erudite, sumptuously photographed guide to contemporary Thai culture.’

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— Jason Gagliardi, South China Morning Post

‘Very Thai is the first in-depth examination of Thai popular culture.’

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— Paul Dorsey, The Nation

‘It is truly so much better than any other “guide”.’

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— Bertil Lintner, The Irrawaddy

‘It was about time that somebody wrote something worth reading about the Thai culture. Philip Cornwel-Smith does that, and does it well. Read Very Thai. You’ll be glad you did.

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— Pracha Suweeranont, Matichon Weekly

‘With a wit that suits the Thai spirit, Very Thai explains with delicateness things that Thais regard as indelicate. An important source that reflects modern Thai consciousness.”

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— Jennifer Gampell, Asian Wall Street Journal

‘Required reading for visitors, residents and anyone anywhere interested in what makes Thailand tick.’

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— Donald Richie, Top 3 Books on Asia 2005, Japan Times

‘A brilliant book-length photo-essay… Cornwel-Smith writes with astute animation.’

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— Nick Grossman, Bangkok Post

‘A thrilling, trail-blazing book of cultural history… A work of astounding breadth and erudition. Very Thai has few, if any, English-language equals.’

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— Lawrence Osborne, author of ‘Bangkok Days’

‘Philip Cornwel-Smith is writing in a way that I like, with an electric eye for the streets.’

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— John Burdett, author of Bangkok 8

‘An entertaining and provocative look at Thai culture.’

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— Andrew Marshall, Time magazine

‘A unique guide to Thai pop and folk culture. Future social historians will thank Cornwel-Smith.’

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— Alex Kerr, author of ‘Lost Japan’

‘This is the book I wish I’d had when I first came to Thailand.’

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John Burdett (review)

(Thailand) Book Bag: Bangkok

http://www.travelcuriousoften.com/october11-book-bag.php

John Burdett’s gripping characterization set against Bangkok’s edgy, seductive cityscapes make his series a thriller in every sense of the word. John Burdett was originally a lawyer with practices in London and Hong Kong. He has lived in France, Spain, Hong Kong, and the U.K. but currently makes his home in both Bangkok and Southwest France.

One of John Burdett’s favorite books about Bangkok is: “very Thai by Philip Cornwel-Smith 
An entertaining and provocative look at Thai culture.”

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Filming Swiss documentary on Bangkok

Author Philip Cornwel-Smith to be dubbed into German

NZZ docu PCS Basil Norn Len DSC05399 copy

A Swiss TV crew from NZZ Format led by presenter/producer Basil Gelpke are in town to film a documentary about contemporary Bangkok. Among the people from different walks of life featured in the show, Gelpke and his Malaysian and Croatian crew interviewed Philip Cornwel-Smith on 1 February 2014, at his home, and in the Samsen area of old Bangkok.

Philip’s nephew Jake Moores helped with the documenting the documentary, including these photographs. While working in Bangalore in late 2013, Jake Moores  co-directed a short film entered into a competition for the Mumbai Film Festival, and which was given a theatre screening in Mumbai. He will soon intern in Kyoto, Japan, as assistant to the prominent Asian cultural expert Alex Kerr.

NZZ docu PCS Basil house DSC05307 edit

NZZ docu PCS Basil Jake DSC05416 copy

 

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Tags: #Bangkok #documentaries #German #interviews #TV #video 

The Thai Hybrid: How Thai culture makes imports its own.

TCDC, Bangkok

A lecture by Philip Cornwel-Smith to the Thailand Creative and Design Center in conjunction with its current exhibition ‘Hello World’ about engagement with the outside world and international markets through adapting cultural products to a wider audience.

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Moon Guide to Thailand

20140626-image-3


Recommended Reading: Culture

‘Explains lots of seemingly quirky Thai cultural behaviours, including the obsession with tiny napkins.’

— Suzanne Nam

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‘Very Thai Thai’

Neilson Hays Library, Bangkok

Philip speaks at the NMV’s annual lecture series for the third year in a row, and the fourth time in total. This year’s talk will draw from the new chapters in the 2nd edition of Very Thai, focusing on the emergence of popular culture becoming a legitimate form of Thainess known as ‘Thai Thai’, and the exploration of everyday practical solutions being recognized as ‘Vernacular Design’.

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‘Phases of Bangkok: Interpreting Thai urban popular culture since 1994’

American Women’s Club, Bangkok

Luncheon talk by Philip Cornwel-Smith

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‘Very Thai Thai’

National Museum Volunteers Lecture Series

National Museum, Bangkok

Philip speaks at the NMV’s annual lecture series for the third year in a row, and the fourth time in total. This year’s talk will draw from the new chapters in the 2nd edition of Very Thai, focusing on the emergence of popular culture becoming a legitimate form of Thainess known as ‘Thai Thai’, and the exploration of everyday practical solutions being recognized as ‘Vernacular Design’. The talk will be followed by one from Ajar Panya ??????????, the famous neo-traditional muralist, about his career as and artist, teacher and painter of The Thai temple in Wimbledon, London.

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2nd Edition Thailand Launch Party

Tradition & Innovation: New edition re-launches of Very Thai and Grand Palace & Old Bangkok

Chakrabongse Palace, Bangkok

Thailand launch of the 2nd Edition, as part of a joint event with the relaunch of the same publisher’s Grand Palace book as Grand Palace & Old Bangkok. It will include a talk by me about the changes between the two editions, along with other activities and festivities in the palace grounds.

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David Thompson’s Thai Streetfood

DATE TBC 2014

PBS Australia (and etc)

Interviewed in episode 11 of the 13-part series by David Thompson (Michelin-starred chef of Nahm) about the streetfood of Thialand. Interviewed on 16 Dec 2013.

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