March 24, 2010

Red shirt seeing red?

So I managed to get myself into a mini dust-up on Twitter today. I saw the esteemed Richard Barrow of the Paknam Web empire retweet something from @RedPhanFa2Day, a Twitter moniker I hadn't seen before.

Clicking through to the user's Twitter page I found this mini-bio: "The official Twitter account for the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) red-shirts protest rally at Phan Fa Bridge."

Official, eh? Interesting. The account had only posted three tweets, and had about 10 followers. Seeing they were new to the game, I figured I'd help out by giving them some free publicity:
The "official"(?) 2010 UDD protest Twitter account: @RedPhanFa2Day (pretty awful choice of Twitter name, why not @redshirt2010 or sthing?)
I don't think I was being unduly skeptical. Anyone can *say* they are the official anything online. I will tell you right now that I am the official wallet inspector for the Greater Bangkok Metropolitan Area, but you'd be foolish to believe me.

This response arrived shortly thereafter:
@thai101 Tks 4 ur comment. There R numerous "red" twitter accs. This name was deliberately chosen to identify with this rally.
Fair enough. I still think it's not a good handle, because it could be catchier and easier to remember. But they're entitled to choose a bad name. And I'm entitled to think it's a bad name from a PR perspective, and to say so.

The other thing I noticed was their use of txtspeak, the hyper-shortened version of English. Even though Twitter has a 140-character limit, you can usually get your point across quite well without it. And I think those who want to present a professional image and be taken seriously should avoid it. I like to use it when I'm being ironic, but that's just me.

So maybe I was being snarky, but I was trying to give a genuine tip when I then replied:
@RedPhanFa2Day Also, it will increase your credibility if you don't tweet like you're in 6th grade.
Now, I'm rather certain that the next reply was from a totally different person, given the level of English. Or maybe I just drove them into a fit of uneditable rage. But I was genuinely surprised by it nonetheless (though it took me 11 hours to notice it, since they didn't tag my username properly):
@ thai101 Dont undastand offical? Then we know who the 6th grader is. We're tweeting 4 ppl who English is a 2nd language ot just rude expats
So apparently they're also tweeting for people who use English as a second language (not just rude expats), which somehow justifies their use of nonstandard English. Although somehow I think that if this really is their target audience, using words that people can't look up in the dictionary isn't the brightest idea.

To date there has been just one subsequent tweet from that account, which appears in normal English, apparently written by the original tweeter, not the one with diarrhea of the thumbs who lashed out at me.

All in all, if this really *is* an official Twitter account of the UDD rally (and I maintain that my question is perfectly valid -- official according to who? Weera? Thaksin? Lin Ping?), whoever has been put in charge of updating it is not very savvy with this whole social media thing.

But then again I'm just a rude expat.

March 20, 2010

Farang: A Nature Mockumentary

Thanks to Gnarly Kitty, I discovered the hilarious videos of Bon, a Thai with a knack for clever satire.

Bon is known for her blog and video series, Learn Thai the Bon's Way. But this month she started a new website, JaideeTV/ใจดีทีวี, on which she spoofs modern Thai culture. In particular, the video that caught my attention is a nature mockumentary about that strange creature, the farang.

In addition to poking fun at foreigners in Thailand, it mocks Thais who try to mimic farangs, and the whole thing is a parody of the well-known Thai educational TV series กระจกหกด้าน. If you've ever seen the series, you know the parody is spot on.

Because I think this video is so great, I created English subtitles for it. The translation attempts to capture the sense of humor of the original, rather than closely translate the Thai.

Be sure to check out Bon's site JaideeTV, too. Enjoy!

March 10, 2010

Bureaucracy Insanity: Chair Envy

Here's an amusing item making the rounds. It is a letter that hails from Sri Prachan District, Suphanburi Province, a few hours northwest of Bangkok.

An unfortunate employee of the local revenue office there who suffers from back pain was told she cannot use her own chair at work, because it makes her look like the boss. Click on the image to enlarge and read the Thai for yourself, but I've provided an English translation below.

14 January 2010  
Re: Request for clarification regarding bringing a personal chair to a government office 
To: Sri Prachan Revenue Office
I, Mrs. Rasmi Thaisitthipong, a revenue expert for the Revenue Department, moved to the Sri Prachan Revenue Office on 21 November 2007, and brought a personal chair for use in the performance of my duties. The office chairs are uncomfortable to sit in, making be unable to perform my duties to the fullest, since I suffer from chronic back pain. Thus, I bring a personal chair, and have brought the chair with me to every office I have worked in. 
I have never had a supervisor inform me that I cannot bring a personal chair to work, until 3:34 p.m. today, when I received a phone call from the District Revenue Chief's office, informing me that Asst. Chamrat wants me to take my personal chair home, because it is not appropriate for my position. I was told to take a personal day tomorrow and to take the chair home. 
I acknowledge that I received the telephone call. However, I will not take the chair home, and request to continue to use it while performing my duties, until I receive a formal written order to take the chair home, in which case I will strictly obey the order.
I also request to review the Sri Prachan Revenue Office regulations to determine which regulation forbids bringing personal chairs for use in the performance of official duties.
Respectfully submitted,
Mrs. Rasmi Thaisitthipong  
Revenue Expert

The handwritten reply to her note, which apparently took four days to compose:

Khun Rasmi,
- That chair isn't appropriate for you, because it looks equivalent to the Sri Prachan District Revenue Chief. Tax payers or others who come to the office are confused as to who is the office chief.
- Use the office chair.
- As for your back pain, you should take care of your health by seeing a doctor.
18 January 2010

A doctor! Now why didn't poor Rasmi think of that? I think this is a hilariously perverse example of bureaucracy in action. And the fact that its making its way around the Thai websphere means that it's not just me who finds this kind of thinking a few tarang wa short of a rai. Never mind that a doctor's advice would be to use an ergonomic chair to minimize stress on your back.

If you're curious about who the characters are in this little tragicomedy of bureaucratic numbskullery, then look no further than the Revenue Department website: Suphanburi Revenue Department Administrators. The relevant players are in the left column.

March 4, 2010

Thai 101 Learner's Series Rides Again

It's been a while since Women Learning Thai finished re-serializing my Thai 101 Learner's Series, which first ran as a biweekly column in the Phuket Gazette during 2008.

The ever-patient Catherine of WLT managed to coax another installment from me, which went live last week. Have a look.