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Mott’s CD review
Book Review: The Third Sex
is one of the few countries in the world that has three official sexes. Men,
women, and women of the second category. The Third Sex, Kathoey – Thailand’s
Ladyboys by Richard Totman (ISBN 974-9575-26-1, Silkworm Books, 2003) looks
into this phenomenon, and he writes (sadly) at the end, “Such is the fate of
these damaged, unresolved yet courageous souls.”
Totman was a Price Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford University,
so has an academic background that should have made it possible to look into
the kathoey persona with a dispassionate eye, though he does admit in the
introduction that it was not a strict social-scientific study.
Totman interviewed 43 kathoeys for this book, and I have left his spelling
as “kathoey”, even though I believe the Khmer spelling “katoey’ is the more
usual in Thailand.
In the early chapters, he makes an attempt to explain the kathoey in medical
terms, with Klinefelter’s Syndrome being put forward; however, even Totman
agrees that all kathoey do not fit into this medical mold either.
Blurring of the gender boundaries has also been noted in historical
documents from the 16th century in Thailand, writes Totman, so the kathoey
phenomenon is not new. Interestingly, Buddhist thinking actually encompasses
four genders, male, female, male kathoey and female transgenders. An
observation that is probably much closer to reality than most people
He also spends much of the book looking at the connection between animism,
which is still very strong in Thai society, shamanism and the kathoey
Totman takes three kathoey to be examined in depth, though again, much of
these chapters remain anecdotal, rather than truly scientific studies, but
his examination does show them to be ‘normal’ human beings, subject to all
the stresses of Thai society, including poverty and thus pushed into
prostitution, though to his credit, Totman does show that prostitution is
often taken up as an ‘easy way’ to make money (as it is for the male and
female population). Interestingly, Totman quotes that only 5 percent of
prostitution is for the tourist market, with the other 95 percent being for
the Thai population exclusively.
At B. 495, it is an interesting look, though I felt in the end that author
Totman, had raised as many questions as answers. He does postulate that the
kathoeys are being marginalized by a society that is striving to show itself
as being very wholesome, and perhaps ‘modern’ in its outlook. This has meant
that the ‘gay’ concept is welcomed, even though it is only 30 years old in
Thai culture, whilst the transgender concept which has its roots in
thousands of years of Thai culture is being publicly rejected, other than to
be paraded for tourists as freak shows. However, from the Thai point of
view, “while sexual excess is disapproved of by the priesthood and
promiscuity is theoretically taboo in the community at large, these as well
as other excesses, are tolerated in the kathoey population because this
group of people cannot help being what they are. It is in this sense that
kathoey are traditionally accepted as part of the community.”
Mott's CD Reviews: Charles Brown
5 Stars *****
Written by Mott The Dog
Re-Scratched by Meow The Cat
Brown has been around on the American music scene for over thirty years now.
Although he has never exactly grabbed the limelight his work has always been
held in the highest esteem by his peers. It is the variety of his work, and
the combined influences that have at times been the reason for holding him
back from being held in the same regard as other musicians of his calibre
such as Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, or even Robert Fripp.
As I have often said there is nothing wrong with an artist showing his
influences, as everybody has them. There is not a guitarist alive that does
not have to give a nod to Robert Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page or some
other worthy that has gone before. All the previous three can be heard
somewhere along the line on this album, plus quite definitely some Ritchie
Blackmore, and I believe that Charles Brown may have listened to a Peter
Banks album or two. As well as guitar influences there are also elements of
jazz with perhaps Pat Metheney coming to mind, whilst in general French
Baroque styles are incorporated, Renaissance music, and the Classics have
not been overlooked either with ‘Allemande’ from the great composer Bach
being suffused into the closing piece of music.
This may at first sound a little harsh, and imply that Charles Brown’s music
is not original and inspiring, far from it. Only his name could have been
changed not to have conjured up images of a little boy falling flat on his
back every time he tried to kick a football.
Charles Brown has welded all these elements together and come up with a
really fine musical experience, the equivalent of a finely painted landscape
of the musical spectrum from full out kick in the stomach heavy metal riffs
to highly polished classical acoustic guitar picking.
The album is broken into two parts: firstly there is the title track
‘Atmospheric Journey: The Suite’. This comes at you in seven different
segments, and clocks in at twenty five minutes long, holding your attention
every minute of the way. This is followed by fourteen minutes of ‘Encore’
which is broken into four sections.
To grab your attention from the get go is opener ‘Prelude and Allegro: The
Awakening Sky’. In true rock ‘n’ roll style the amps are tuned over eleven
and Charles Brown lets rip on some Heavy Rock style guitar making sure you
are paying attention. It is the musical comparison to putting someone in a
neck hold. The guitars are double layered one over another to give the sound
of a whole guitar orchestra thrashing away, leaving plenty of room for
gritty rhythm guitars, plus all of the widdly diddly guitar overdubs that we
all so love here in Thailand. With the Charles Brown style of guitar
playing, if you have got it flaunt it. Why play one note when a hundred can
be played at supersonic speed in the same time period? Awe inspiring stuff.
The first two sections are not so much brought to your attention but
battered into your subconscious, good solid rock that the likes of Satriani
and Vai would be as well to put back into their recorded work before people
start losing interest.
Once Charles Brown has got your attention and has you sitting up in your
seat he is able to take the foot off the pedal and show off the other
products he has available on his counter.
For the third section of the Suite we are for the first time introduced to
the Brown acoustic guitar (unless there is some multi-layered acoustic
guitar underneath the carnage of the first two sections). This drifts into a
short introduction piece aptly titled ‘Journey to The Clouds’ for the first
time featuring some subtle keyboards played by the talented Steve Espinosa.
These ideas are further expanded on the following part of the suite ‘Storm
Passage’ (the name of each part of the Suite is more or less self
explanatory), where the lead electric guitar is brought back to the fore,
but not before a Purple style instrumental battle between the six strings
and the keyboard. The solo that brings this part to its conclusion can only
be described as blistering.
As in a fulfilling walk, if ‘Storm Passage’ brings you to the top of the
hill then the next piece ‘Atmospheric Change’ leads you gently down the
other side and back to safety. It’s a charming acoustic guitar number with
some atmospheric keyboard work layered on top. A brief interlude between
guitar and keyboards leads us to the climax to the Suite. As is appropriate
all of the aspects of the suite are shown off to fine effect in the finale,
but ones ears cannot help but be impressed and drawn to the dazzling six
string work, which again ignores the torpedoes and heads in for the kill, a
truly masterful and complete instrumental workout, which I have not heard
topped by any of the other contemporary musicians of the day.
The ‘Encore’ section of the album is certainly no filler material, but
rather four separate instrumentals. Featuring different aspects of Charles
Brown’s skills, the jazzy feel to ‘Maroon Sunrise’ is perfectly placed to
relax you after some of the more frantic sections of the Suite, showing off
Charles Brown’s ability to slow things down and make every note count, if
the need so requires.
‘Emerald Wind’ sees the acoustic guitar given a complete workout in almost a
hoedown style. Just when you felt you could categorize Charles Brown he goes
and pulls another rabbit from the hat, fitting in perfectly with the taste
of the album.
‘Slow Burn’ is exactly that, the guitarist lights the blue touch paper, and
then it is stand back in amazement as he lets loose with some stunning
guitar pyrotechnics, interspersed with some gasps for air with keyboard or
acoustic guitar fills.
The set is brought to a shimmering conclusion with the final piece to the
jig-saw, ‘Windsong’, which lovingly drifts you back home after the
atmospheric journey. A hugely rewarding musical adventure. Music of this
quality should not be allowed to go unnoticed, particularly when you look
and see what a load of old rubbish often fills up the commercial charts. For
those of you wishing to know more about this amazing musician please look up
his record company’s website at www. fossilrecords.net
Charles Brown: Roland GR30 Guitar Synth, Fender Stratocaster, Les
Paul Standard, Marshall Amps, Acoustic and Classical Guitars
Ken Lark: Drums
Steve Espinosa: Keyboards
Matt Bassano: Keyboard Solo, ‘On The Wings Of The Sun’
Bill Boerder: Outro Solo, The Gathering Storm, The Atmospheric Journey
Prelude and Allegro: The Awakening Sky
Allegro Con Brio: The Gathering Storm
Courante: Journey To The Clouds
Moderato: Storm Passage
Andante: Cloud Dance
Finale-Presto: On The Wings Of The Sun
Windsong (Featuring ‘Allemande’ J.S. Bach)
To contact Mott the Dog
email: [email protected]