Coffee street vendor Damrong Maslae, 42, is currently embroiled in a copyright dispute with corporate giant Starbucks who are demanding he change the logo for his Starbung stall.

How long have you been a coffee street vendor?
It’s been five years now. I am from Phangnga, but I started earning a living in Bangkok by selling roti. Then I began selling coffee and drinks at yellow shirt gatherings and protests.

Why did you name your stall Starbung?
I’ve used this logo for a year and a half. At first my stall had no name, then I asked someone to design a logo for me. One day, two of Starbucks’ lawyers came to inform me through a cease-and-desist letter that I was violating the chain’s copyright. I was shocked. I told them that if the two logos are really so similar then I will take mine down, but I’ll have to talk to my lawyer first. I am prepared to make a stand.

What is your family’s present financial situation?
I have six children, one of whom has moved out to get married. My second daughter is studying and I still owe the school’s B5,000 fee. I also have a debt of around B40,000 with a loan shark. How can I pay all this if I only make around B400-500 per day? Everything’s getting more and more expensive. Thankfully, people sympathize with me. Some now know about me from the news and I guess I have to thank Starbucks for helping me make more money.

What do you make of the copyright infringement claims?
Sure, my logo may look like theirs, but I don’t see it as being totally the same. I haven’t copied them. My logo has its own identity. And it’s green because the color has always had a special significance for Muslims like me. I’m dejected that a huge multi-national company should choose to take this action. They are like a giant treading on a tiny toothpick—what would happen if the toothpick stood up and stabbed the sole of their foot? It might backfire and some people might turn away from Starbucks. It’s normal for me to feel tired of vending, but on top of that now I have all this trouble that just seems nonsensical to me.

What will you do if they win the case?
I will change my logo. I will respect the decision of the court, but for now I’m not going to make any changes. If they win I will even give them my stall and go buy a new one to continue vending here as I’ve always done. But if it’s just their word against mine, I won’t do anything. I don’t even know why they warned me. I haven’t done anything wrong to them. Personally, I think they might be hiding something.

Any final words for the plaintiff?
Stop persecuting me please. I’m just a poor guy, selling coffee on the street. Fair enough if I was the founder of a big business with many branches and posed a threat to their business—but I don’t even come close to making 10% of what one Starbucks branch makes in a day.

Leave a Comment

As the 17th Book Expo Thailand kicks off at Queen Sirikit National Convention Center (Oct 18-28), we speak to some of the most exciting Thai authors you should look out for at the fair.

WISUT PONNIMIT CARTOONIST/ILLUSTRATOR, 36

His favorite mangas: Toriyama Akira [Dragon Ball], Inoue Takehiko [Slam Dunk] and Adachi Mitsura [Rough]
Essential work: Hesheit 1+2+3 and 4+5+6, published by Typhoonbooks
Why you should care: He contributed to Katch and A Day magazines, before making his name in the motherland of manga, Japan, where he was named one of ELLE Japan’s 250 people to watch.

What drew you to be a cartoonist?
I’d always loved drawing but I wasn’t too ambitious. I never thought my dream would come true and I’d be able to draw and make a living wherever I go. In 1999, [music producer] Boyd Kosiyabong paid me for some of my artwork. From that day on, I thought, this is my life. Since then, I’ve drawn on and on.
What was your life like in Japan?
I studied at a small language school in Kobe, spending my days off working on my art to exhibit. At first, I was making these small animations in Thai, which I had to provide Japanese subtitles for. Later I ditched dialogue altogether and would just play piano to give my animations a soundtrack. Eventually, more people got to know my work.
Why did you return to Bangkok?
Over my three and a half years in Japan, I let myself become almost Japanese, just from my surroundings. I found that my work, based on my life there, started to look like other Japanese artists. I felt like I needed to distinguish myself as a Thai artist, so I came back. Thailand is awesome; there is such a variety here, people doing all kinds of jobs. In Japan, people supported my work; here, I’m kind of unknown. But It’s important to know who you are and where you come from. If everything always ended up in the right place, I might forget how lucky I am to be where I am today.
What’s your style like now?
My mangas are told through my own experiences, which means I have real messages to get across. When it comes to symbolism or plot, I have a deep well to draw inspiration from. In some of my works you’ll find things like cities in the sky, but there are reasons behind all the images and plot twists. Everything has reason.
Do you want your stories to convey a moral?
Just read and be happy; don’t worry. When I read a manga, I am relaxed. I’m freaked out by the idea that, armed just with a pencil, I could create something that someone might read and then want to kill someone. That’s not my way. One time while I was watching TV, a royal message was broadcast along the lines of “Don’t bring a useless thing into the world.” That message has stayed lodged in my memory.
What’s your favorite creation?
I am so proud of my Hesheit series [1998-2003]. It is an extraordinary work, filled with pure emotions and nothing made-up. I was able to express all of my true feelings. It turned out exactly as I had hoped and wished.
What do you think of the World Book Capital title?
It might be a good thing and encourage more people to read. Personally, I don’t think it’s too bad here. I think around half of people like to read. It’s great that we got crowned World Book Capital rather than the worst city for something.

JIRAT PRASERTSUP
WRITER AND EDITOR OF FINE DAE MAGAZINE, 27

Favorite books: The Stranger by Albert Camus and Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez
Essential work: Karn Mueng Rueng Surreal, published by the Thai Writer Network
Why you should care: His self-published collection of short stories won big at the SCG Indy Awards in 2011 for the twist they put on our confrontational form of politics.

What inspires you to write?
I read a lot, both non-fiction and fiction. I’m also informed by TV news and gossip. For me, writing is just the easiest way for me to reflect on things. If I had the know-how I’d make a film, but I’m more interested in writing than anything else.
How did you first get published?
I started really writing about two years ago. My first short story, “Me in the Dark,” tells of a man eating his own flesh. At first, I didn’t even think of compiling my works, but I started posting my stories to the Young Thai Blog (http://youngthai.blogspot.com/) every month. After I was recognized at the SCG Indy Awards last year, Mr. Rueangkit Rakkanchanan, the secretary of the Thai Writer Network, gathered my short stories together to be published as Karn Mueng Rueng Surreal.
Is your writing overtly political?
Not really. Although I try to apply a twisted logic to the news through my writing, I don’t directly approach topics like social class, serious politics or civil rights, even though they interest me greatly. That’s not the duty of writers like me. I like to inject dark humor into my stories. Some people call my work blank post-modernism, but that’s up to the reader to interpret. I’m proud of my literary style. I like to use satire to explain certain phenomena. In Karn Mueng Rueng Surreal, I used sarcasm and magical realism to communicate the idea that politics is all around us—we cannot run away from them.
What would you like readers to take from your writing?
I would like to be an inspiration to readers; to make them think more about their surroundings. I want to help people to read between the lines about public issues, to approach things in both a serious and amusing manner.
What’s next?
I’m putting together a collage-style novella, dubbed Pi Pit Ta Phan Siang, about the noise that fills our lives. There’s not yet a publication date, and the work is still incomplete. I will also have a short story included in a collection called Chai Kha Rueang San Vol. 4 by Khana Khian, for which Anusorn Tipayanon (one of Thai famous writers) is editor in chief.
What do you think of Bangkok being named World Book Capital?
I’m sure it’s with good intentions, but I haven’t seen any policy about what it’s meant to do. As far as writing and media, our country lacks diversity. And online social networking already eats into whatever media consumption we had. We can’t complain that reading levels are decreasing. It would probably be more apt if Bangkok was named World Gossip or Fashion Magazine Capital.

TUL WAITOONKIAT
MUSICIAN AND POET, 36

Favorite books: Warren Buffet Speaks: Wit and Wisdom from the World’s Greatest Investor by Janet Lowe and Taj Mahal Bon Dao Ang Karn (Taj Mahal on Mars) by Tinakorn Hutangkul
Essential work: Sing Tee Yoo Nok Jai, published by Happening
Why you should care: Better known as the frontman of the band Apartmentkhunpa, Tul Waitoonkiat is taking his art to a whole new level; his poetry has even featured in an exhibition as neon lights on a wall.

How did you first get into poetry?
I started composing lyrics when I was a teenager after first hearing Pathomporn Pathomporn’s album Chao Ying Dok Mai Kub Chao Chai Hang Talae. I started keeping a notebook with all my thoughts and ideas. Then one day, it just seemed right to use all the emotions I hadn’t put into song lyrics.
How do you feel about negative feedback?
I was so proud to see my poems collated. I self-published my octameter poetry under the title 1905 2553, inspired by the 2010 military crackdown. Some people like them, some people are puzzled. They’re right to be puzzled, because when I wrote them I didn’t intend for them to be shared. It’s just feelings I had to get out. The circumstances touched me so much that I was able to compose the poems in just one day.
Poetry is often overlooked in Thai literary circles. Is it hard to get recognition?
No. Poets know in advance that the game we play is one that seldom concerns many people. As a result our tiny group is stronger and more resilient than others. Poetry isn’t simply words on a page—it can be just a powerful as the spoken word.
Who’s your favourite poet?
I think Mai Mee Ying Sao Nai Bot Kavee by Sakareya is a nice, contemporary change from traditional poetry.
What are your thoughts on the current state of reading in Thailand?
People like reading, even though the reading culture is not as entrenched as in other countries. Bangkok has one of the highest amounts of Facebook users—people cannot use it if they don’t read. Reading is not only about books. I don’t believe all the negative statistics.
What is your latest published work?
It’s a collection of poems I wrote before 1905 2553, which was compiled as part of Sing Tee Yoo Nok Jai by the Happening label and published at the beginning of the year.
What are your thoughts on Bangkok being named World Book Capital?
You would hope that it at least means that plenty of public libraries will be set up with good varieties of books and audiovisual aids. We still suffer from the lack of world-acclaimed novels translated into Thai. More budget also needs to be set aside to hold Bangkok short-story awards and support local writers by translating a select few Thai books into English each year, to raise international awareness of Thai literature. In comparison, putting ads on TV is just an expensive waste. Instead, we could use places like the BACC as hubs for encouraging more reading.

WORAWICH SUPTAWEESANG
WRITER AND OWNER OF UNDERSTANDBOOKS PUBLISHING HOUSE, 29

Favorite books: GamGej by Utsana Phleungtham and The Castle by Franz Kafka
Essential work: Phon Ngan Kong Nak Kian Ta Nud Sai Phu Doi Pattana, self-published under Understandbooks (Khaojaipim)
Why you should care: The resolutely independent Worawich Suptaweesang turned his back on his engineering degree to publish under his own imprint.

Why become an author?
As an upper secondary school student, I loved to read. I would save my money to buy books: mangas, classics—whatever tales made it my way. At that time, there was a magazine named Katch, which had a column that took submissions from readers. I sent in one of my short stories and it got published. Ever since, I’ve thought becoming a writer would be an interesting path. Later on, I was admitted to an engineering program so I had to study.
What are your inspirations?
Everything has happened so suddenly. Early on, I would watch the news and keep abreast of social issues to inject into my storytelling. Maybe readers wouldn’t realize this, but I wanted them to feel the same way I did.
Why did you launch Understandbooks?
I had the idea of being a self-publisher, because I wanted to be considered for the S.E.A. Write Awards. So far I’ve put out Phon Ngan Kong Nak Kian Ta Nud Sai Phu Doi Pattana, a collection of my short stories.
Do you ever tire of writing?
Nowadays, I find it hard to get any writing done—it’s like I’m looking for a way out. My storytelling is simply not strong enough. I’m trying to read and travel more to have experiences to write about. I am always looking for something new.
What are your future plans?
Each month I write a short story for Pol La Mueang Rueang Son, a club where many writers come together to recite their works. I have a big desire to write a novel; I just need to settle on which of my stories I can expand upon. Hopefully I’ll have a novel out within a year. I’d also like to write a screenplay.
What do you think about Bangkok being named World Book Capital?
I’d like people to come together to discuss books like they do about Thailand’s Got Talent or soap operas. If the city is to truly be a World Book Capital, we must start promoting reading. The BMA could subsidize small, independent publishers to put out more informative, classic literature or translated works, so that people have more reading options.
Want a copy of Worawich’s books? We have four copies to give away. Write to editorial@asia-city.co.th

KATANYU SWANGSRI
WRITER AND OWNER OF NOK KAO PUBLISHING HOUSE, 26

Favorite books: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka and Pan Din Aeun by Kanokphong Songsamphan
Essential work: Kam Sap, self-published under Nok Khao
Why you should care: Since his youthful beginnings as part of A Team Junior learning the ropes at A Day Magazine, Katanyu Sawangsri has published an acclaimed collection of short stories, Kam Sap.

How did you get interested in literature?
After reading lots of books, it was like something struck me and I wanted to express my own stories, too. I’ve take influence from my favorite authors like Franz Kafka, Haruki Murakami and Milan Kundera. It doesn’t mean I write as well as them, but I’ve just gained ideas from them.
How did you first get published?
My first collection of short stories was Yu Kab Ku, which was compiled from a column I contributed to Happening Magazine. The editor there, Vip Burapadecha, was behind this. The stories talk about a mad person living with ordinary people, and what everyone learns from this.
Tell us about your publishing house?
After my short story “Kwam Song Jam” was published in [literary magazine] Cho Karaked, I gained the confidence to establish my own publishing house. I only really intended to put out my own books, so I could do things the way I want. I thought it might look odd if I put things out independently without a publishing title. So far I’ve released a collection of short stories called Kam Sap.
Is it hard to make a living as a writer?
Here in Thailand, only a tiny number of people read seriously. Competition is so high from other media. You really have to convince people that your book is worth reading. It’s almost as if you have to write a masterpiece. And then you’ve got to produce consistently or people will forget you. Right now, I’m just a tiny sprout in literary circles—the time is not yet right for harvesting—but I’m determined to prove myself.
What’s next?
These days, I work as a freelance MC for events. I’m also trying to write a romantic novel in the vein of One Day (David Nicholls’ novel, since adapted into film), but in my own style—not some kind of soap opera. Writing a novel is a big deal. I’d also like do more photography, focusing on black-and-white photographs.
What do you think of Bangkok being named World Book Capital?
It doesn’t make sense from the get-go. I haven’t seen anything about this city that makes it a World Book Capital. We just seem to announce that we want to be something, then think all we have to do is hold a few events. Before you know it, the whole thing has blown over. Reading is just not that big here.

Bangkok's governor discusses Bangkok's world book capital title

 

Leave a Comment

Despite a daily commute of almost 300 kilometers, Boonchoo Chirdsang, 52, enjoys the freedom she gets working as a sundried fish vendor compared to her previous job as a construction worker.

How did you become a sundried fish vendor?
I started off as a farmer in Chainat. At first, when my sister-in-law asked me to be a vendor, I turned her down to work as a construction worker, which I did for 10 years. Working on building sites is grueling work and very tiring. It’s also frustrating always having to work under a supervisor. Eventually, I had enough and decided to come sell sundried fish in Bangkok.

Talk us through your daily routine
I live in Angthong, but I have to buy fresh fish at Suphanburi, which is about 30km from my house. I leave there to go to Bangkok at around 5am, arriving sometime after 7am depending on traffic which can be very slow. After drying the fish, I’m generally selling by 11am. I try to sell at different places every day, otherwise customers might get bored of me; for example, on Sunday I’ll go to Samrong and on Tuesday to Phrapradaeng.

Do you get tired of your seven-hour commute every day?
I am accustomed to doing it now, but at first it made me tired and grumpy. Also, about two years ago, I switched to using a pushcart after previously carrying everything on a shoulder pole, which gave me a bad backache.

What is your daily income?
I usually earn B400-B500 per day after paying B400 to my son-in-law who drives me, and several other vendors, to Bangkok. Luckily, I don’t have to pay any rent. Exactly how much I make depends on how much fish I buy—usually I buy about B3,000-B4,000 worth. As my fish are always fresh, it’s important that I sell-out each day. Thankfully, I have many regular customers. I can survive. However, this one time, I had a lot of customers queuing up. One guy bought B215 worth of fish, and I gave him B785 back in change. Later, I realized that he didn’t give me B1,000. That was a day where I gained nothing. It was hard to accept.

How does your work impact your family situation?
My husband and I split up a long time ago. I have four children; three of whom have already moved out. My youngest, 15, was adopted. She studies at a lower secondary school and lives with me. I support her. Her parents gave her to me and I simply couldn’t say no because I was sympathetic to their situation. She’s been with me since she was three months old and she calls me mom. Another daughter also works as a vendor at Bangpakok Market.

Do you have fun working as a vendor?
It’s OK. When I am tired I can take time off. There’s no one to stop me. I could never be a construction worker again. I simply couldn’t! Still, I don’t really like Bangkok. The air is so polluted. Living in my hometown is much better.

Leave a Comment

On The Road

Editor's Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Fans of The Motorcycle Diaries were probably thrilled to hear that the same director, Walter Salles, had been hired to helm the project to finally bring one of the greatest road trip novels of all time to the silver screen. But On The Road, Jack Kerouac’s semi-autobiographical tale of friendship, wandering and debauchery, doesn’t translate nearly as well on screen, making it clear why it took Hollywood over 50 years to produce an adaptation.

Opening Date: 
Tue, 2012-09-25
Images: 
Author: 
Marissa Smith
Sattawas Eiamsan

The last time Thailand’s Got Talent made headlines was for a topless female painter. But the popular TV show’s finale reclaimed the hearts of its viewers thanks to a hair-raising aerial acrobatic performance by Rachanikorn “Leng“ Kaewdee, 28. He tells BK how he made it to the final and his plans for the B10 million-worth of prizes.

BK: Where did you first learn acrobatics?
In the second year of vocational school at Phranakhorn Academy of Business, where I was majoring in marketing, I took a five month internship program. I chose to go to Patravadi Theatre where I got the opportunity to study performing arts. Before that, I had been on the cheerleading team in my school, so I had some basic moves.

BK: How did you develop your own style?
Patravadi gave me a scolarship to study art, dancing, folk dance, ballet and classical and I performed in some of their Sunday plays. Acrobatics techniques are very Western, so I look to represent Thai culture and myself by incorporating all these things. My style is just me. I’ve learned so many things. Some are kind of like ballet, some are like Thai dance.

BK: Is it hard to make a living as an artist in Bangkok?
Some artists say it’s hard but these artists just shut themselves off. They might be open in their work but they don’t like television or doing anything mass. For me, I think being commercial in part of my work is OK. I always flip between work as art and commercial stuff for a living.

BK: Do you feel that some artists look down on you?
Some artists said, “You shouldn’t do Thailand’s Got Talent. It’s never going to work. You’ll never win. Thai people don’t open their minds to new things.” I have proved that Thai people aren’t that narrow-minded.

BK: Have you ever fallen during a performance?
I once fell on my head and had to go to the hospital. It was all bruised black and blue. But after 12 hours I just went back to work. I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble by having to cancel the show.

BK: What is the hardest part of your training?
The main problem has always been money. My parents are farmers, they’re not well-off. I had to work at Pizza Hut at Big C Ladprao to pay for my studies and I stayed in a dorm miles from school and my work.

BK: Do your parents support you?
They used to think it was just a short-term, unstable career. But now they see how it can work out for me.

BK: What’s next?
My dream is to be a theater director. I’m addicted to making performances a bit more extreme. But good art should be both entertaining and understandable.

BK: Where can we see you now?
I’ll do a concert with participants of Thailand’s Got Talent at the end of Oct and tour Korea at the end of this month. Then I’m off to Laos and Vietnam for an art festival. I’ll be back in Bangkok with my own creation in Feb.

Leave a Comment

Meet Krit Boonyarung, 23. Known online as Bie the Ska, he’s a growing Youtube sensation thanks to video parodies of popular songs. His latest, of K-Pop chart-topper “Gangnam Style,” already has over 1.2 million views.

How did you get started as Bie the Ska?
It was actually in the middle of a busy exam week. I’m currently studying my master’s in IT at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi. Many students were stressed out, so I just wanted to relieve the tension. I made my first parody [of Poyfai Malaiporn’s “Man Tong Thon”] the day before an exam. It turned out people really loved it and they passed it on to their friends. I like surprising my friends.

Was it tough following up your first clip?
Wherever I went it seemed “Man Tong Thon” was a hit and people would constantly ask me, “When are you going to release another one?” These were mostly university student and the vid only got around 10,000 views. Then there was this ad on TV that featured children and disabled people singing “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” and I was like “Yeah! This could make audiences weep.” So I created my own vid of it, lip-syncing as usual. The feedback was good and it attracted even more viewers.

Tell us about shooting the video for “Gangnam Style.”
Most scenes were easy to shoot, like the ones on the MRT, but for the scene at the fountain in front of CentralWorld we had to trick a group of security guards by saying one of us had lost our bag. When they went searching for it, we took off our clothes and shot the scene really quickly. Then we ran away as soon as the guards returned.

How do you choose what videos to make?
I mostly choose from what people request. I check which songs have been posted to my fan page and decide whether they are possible to parody. They should feature dancing that I can interpret. Finally, what matters most is that I like the song. For “Gangnam Style” I recruited some of my fans to join the shoot. We didn’t know each other but everyone had a lot of fun putting together a funny clip.

Do you receive many negative comments?
Yes, things like, “This is bullshit” and “You are ignorant.” Others have called me ugly and silly. But these people don’t know me or what goes into my work. It doesn’t worry me too much because the percentage of people pressing the dislike button [on Youtube] is small.

Who are your role models?
As you can probably tell from my name, Bie the Star is my idol, especially the way he manages his time. Today he has a lot of work, but takes his responsibilities as a Thai superstar all in his stride. That impresses me. Mark Zuckerberg is another who inspires me, making me believe that anything is possible.

What’s the future for Bie the Ska?
From next month, I’m probably going to start a weekly or fortnightly programme on Youtube. It will be like a talk show with parody videos.

Leave a Comment