Some asked the other day what sort of a publication we were aiming at and after a bit of thought we said we saw it as a cross between a parish newsletter and the New Yorker. That earned a derisive hoot and laughter. And understandably.
“The poor guys can’t even get the things out on time and they’re already suffering from media megalomania…”
You could see the reason for the hilarity.
All the same, the question concerned aspiration rather than accomplishment and without targets you don’t get anywhere. So we’d like to defend that tentative definition of identity.
We see ourselves as the parish rag in that there’s hardly a movement in the city – hardly the fall of a nok grajip – too small for us to notice. Births, deaths, comings, goings, the loss of a landmark, the laying of a foundation stone: if it’s of interest to our readers, we’re going to write about it – particularly if you bring it to our attention.
On the other hand, Chiang Mai’s developing at a breakneck speed, in a region with a remarkable potential for self-transformation, both positive and negative. As a culture centre its historic and proto-historic depths have hardly been sounded. Its hinterland stretches from the Shan States to the north-west, North across the Mekong to Yunnan, beyond the other principalities of Lanna to Laos, and over the tumuli of the Northeast to the tightly-fenced villages of Vietnam – in other words to within sniffing distance of the Pacific. And in this huge region there are enough diverse voices to make Babel sound like plainsong. The tourism potential alone is almost infinite. If only the trashing of the environment and cultural heritage can be halted.
Hardly surprising then that the city should be bursting with people and organisations of extraordinary interest and variety – rice farmers rubbing shoulders with government officials, gun-runners with meditation masters, shopkeepers with warlords, enough missionaries to populate heaven – and other places – ten times over, university educators and their submissive subjects of every stripe and humour, as well as the spooks of both major varieties, along with the witches, warlocks, mediums and mountebanks they resemble.
And how do you number the foreign experts with their feet under the kantoke table? Or the researchers for whom the city is a launch pad? Or the transients tripping through, from mega-stars stopping incognito at the Orchid Hotel to pack-packers in their guesthouses picking the dust of three continents from between their toes?
In other words, journalistic opportunities are breath-taking, the only constraints the time and space available and the need for a certain discretion in picking our subjects.
It’s true we don’t – as yet – have an Updike writing for us, but with your assistance we hope to put out a publication with enough of this city’s colour, movement and diversity, past and present to make the New Yorker seem almost – well, parochial.