Noy Thrupkaew

Noy Thrupkaew is a Prospect senior correspondent.

Recent Articles

Fantasia Island

American Idol 's third-season finale ended with a scene straight from its first: a young woman (this year's stupendously talented Fantasia Barrino) bawling through a ballad in front of the millions of TV viewers who had voted her to stardom. But despite the similarities, this season's déjà vu happy ending hid the fact that a bit of the shine had come off America's most popular talent show. Plagued by charges of a flawed voting system, Idol seemed to falter behind its unspoken, powerful premise: that Americans could participate in a pop-culture democracy fairly, and that their choices would be more egalitarian and merit-based than those made by the record industry. This year's controversy stemmed from the advancement two weeks ago of contestant Jasmine Trias rather than La Toya London. Trias' voice was pleasant enough, but she lacked London's rich expressiveness, power, and control. What Trias did have, however, was the undying support of the people of Hawaii, who flooded the phone...

Bringin' Down the House

Twenty-six grimy people in buckle shoes and corsets, four colonial cabins, six months of back-breaking labor and puritanical laws: Welcome to another slice of “experiential history” as crafted by the creators of PBS' latest reality show, Colonial House (May 17-18 and May 24-25, check local listings). The eight-episode series is the network's latest foray into hurling modern Americans into uncomfortable historical settings. Past versions have included Manor House and Frontier House , where families squirmed under the yoke of upstairs-downstairs, master-servant relations or struggled to build homesteads in “19th-century” Montana. With Colonial House , the time machine is set to the earliest year to date -- the participants are going back to the “roots of our nation.” And this time, they're bringing back lessons about forging an ideal society, about the pitfalls and problems of building a “City upon a Hill” that have remarkable parallels to our nation-building efforts in the Middle East...

China Blues

Springtime in a Small Town is the latest offering from one of China's great Fifth Generation directors, those artists who mined the horrors of the Cultural Revolution to devastating cinematic effect in the mid-'90s. The screaming mobs at political purge sessions, the heaps of classical texts burning in the streets, the hollow-cheeked famine that resulted from Mao's Great Leap Forward policy -- this world on fire was the backdrop for films like Chen Kaige's Farewell, My Concubine , Zhang Yimou's To Live, and Tian Zhuangzhuang's The Blue Kite . The sense of scale was thunderous, with the characters struggling like ants against the inexorable machinery of ideology and the state, and more often than not, they barely survived. In his first film in nearly a decade, Tian has largely turned away from the conflagration of modern Chinese history, which had brought him no end of trouble. In 1989, he was blacklisted for signing an open letter to the government that advocated for the release of...

Big-Mac Attack

Super Size Me smacks viewers early on with a money shot. Morgan Spurlock, the star and director of the documentary, is jawing through a Super Size meal with naughty elation. It's his first Super Size ever! Five minutes later, and the grin is fading. Some minutes more, and the director is complaining of a McStomachache. Then McGas. And then before we know it, he's got his head out the car window. Whoop, there it is. The McVomit. With that, it becomes clear that Spurlock, 33, has made something akin to a porno flick, one that memorializes his sordid, sadomasochistic affair with McDonald's. Spurlock's main focus is actually the tricky line between corporate and personal responsibility, the societal costs of obesity and America's fast-food culture. But he's also written himself into the script in a way that's too entertaining to ignore. His role? A human guinea pig who eats nothing but McDonald's for a month. Intrigued by lawsuits alleging that McDonald's was guilty of making its...

Immigrant Song

The immigrants in the documentary The New Americans are indeed the tired and the poor to whom the Statue of Liberty extends her welcome. But faceless, huddled masses they are not, thanks to this series, which follows five immigrant stories over the course of four years. Debuting today, tomorrow, and wednesday on PBS (check local listings), The New Americans begins in its subjects' homelands and traces both their wrenching goodbyes and their first years in the United States. Over the course of the seven-hour program, viewers become intimately acquainted with some of the human stories that underpin ever-fiercer debates over immigration in the United States. One of the most recent additions to the fray is Samuel Huntington's essay "The Hispanic Challenge" , which appeared in the latest issue of Foreign Policy . Excerpted from his upcoming book, Who Are We?: The Challenges to America's National Identity , the essay is Huntington's notion of the "clash of civilizations," writ to fit the...

Pages