Saturday, May 17, 2008

And now I'm ready to feel your hand / And lose my heart on the burning sands

One of my cinematic joys is the work of pioneering Scottish director Bill Forsyth. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched Gregory’s Girl (ok, everybody had a thing for Claire Grogan back then and I wasn’t immune, don’t ask why now) or Comfort and Joy. I smile at the mere thought of Dickie Bird and the Glasgow Ice Cream wars. Sadly Hollywood chewed up Forsyth and this hugely influential director has only made a single film in the past 20 years, apparently broken by the process in California.

My favourite Forsyth film deals with the modern world treading, somewhat harshly, upon a quiet, isolated village in the Scottish Highlands. It’s called Local Hero and it’s a truly wonderful hour and eleven minutes (despite having a soundtrack tie to the odious Mark Knoffler).

Tonight we had a Local Hero moment or two.

We’d decided to go to a charity dinner to support BARC…The Bali Adoption Rehabilitation Centre. There are three or four charity organisations dedicated to the welfare of Bali dogs. The state of many of the dogs on this island is both heartbreaking and disgraceful and there seems little impetus with any governmental agencies here to do the simple thing and pass an animal welfare law or two. It’s not hard really and it's to Indonesia's shame that they have not.

The dinner was at a place called Medahan, north east of here, just off the highway to hell..the Sanur to Candidasa roadway, which may or may not compete with the Semerang to Jepara road as the most dangerous road on this planet. Grossly overloaded trucks meander along at 120km, often on the wrong side of the road, pausing only to overtake you, usually into oncoming traffic on a two lane bridge. This morning a truck decided that the best time to overtake me was when I overtaking a bemo..thus turning this two lane death trap into a three lane death trap. Said truck had painted out most of the glass on his windscreen excepting a small star, which gave excellent forward vision.

belongFortunately the traffic police are on top of this…stopping tourists and motorbikes, usually when it’s close to lunch or dinner time, as these steaming overloaded behemoths roar past, about to take out a family of eight crowded into a four seat 1997 Suzuki Jimny (whom I should add, are also overtaking on bridges and blind corners).

Anyway, we’d had to go north to a place called Belong, about 20 minutes above Ubud, and decided to head south-east to the dinner / party in as direct a route as possible. I studied the Periplus Bali Road Map and discerned a likely route. Years of experience have taught me that this book cannot be relied on. For example, JL Sunset Rd (yes I know Jalan is the Indonesian word for Road so it’s repeating itself but that’s what it’s called), perhaps the major thoroughfare in Kuta / Legian, does not exist in it...or at least part of it does, but it goes in the wrong direction. Don’t ask.

Thus, at 5pm we, being the nuclear family of three, got in the Jeep in Belong and meandered down the map. All was fine until we reached the Satria turnoff. The map showed a clear route south through to the highway. It was a win-win. We avoided most of the H-To-H traffic, and made it in a reasonably quick time. ETA was 6pm.

We followed the route south and it began to get perilously narrow for our large-ish Cherokee 4 wheel drive (which, travelling roads like these daily…and much worse, we can, I think justify more than the X5 in Neutral Bay or Pajero in Remuera). Of added concern were the number of people, including a fair number who were half naked -it was mandi (washing) hour- in the waterways and creeks who were looking at us with some bemusement.

Nobody said a word though.

We smiled and waved at the

As the jalan narrowed it forked. To the left it turned into a gang (lane) wide enough for a motorcycle, to the right the road continued. The map showed it going straight ahead, which was not an offered solution. Thus we veered right. There was a lady in the creek, dressed but doing the laundry in the now very dark (which I guess is a good way to hide any dirt), with a child. We drove slowly past her, she gave a confused look and our hopeful road turned into a dirt driveway and stopped.

Ever so carefully and slowly we backed up, avoiding the lady and went into a driveway to turn. She smiled at us as her child ran behind our wheels and I stopped quickly. Not a word from the lady, who was now happily ignoring us despite the fact that we’d almost squashed her little one.

Gingerly we edged back towards Satria, past the increasingly bemused looking people with their clothes off and back to the main road where the map indicated that a turn to right may yield better dividends. On the way out we passed two small, full, tourist buses heading inwards, and we guessed they had the same Periplus map.

So east we went along the next marked road and it seemed to make sense. We followed it right then left then right again then left then did a u-turn because we found that the road we were on seemed to be going in the wrong direction, and instead headed off, past a temple with a bunch of people doing gamelan practice, and past many more semi naked people largely ignoring us. And then we wound down, very steeply, into an overgrown river valley and followed the ever narrowing road until it became a goat track. With nowhere else to go the Jeep became a goat and we wound up the very steep track until it widened and we found ourselves in the small village of Anggarkasih, which was next door to......... Medahan (see above!)

So map in hand I discovered the road through to Medahan and headed off down it. The family sitting, conducting a cleansing ceremony, in the middle of the road, like everyone else, looked bemused. I guess waving expat families in Jeep Cherokees don't make it to their ceremonies that often.

The road narrowed and narrowed and then…uhhh…stopped. And it seemed we might have to back over the ceremony, but fortunately we found a bit where the road got an inch or so wider, and making use of the 4 wheel drive to get the front wheel out of a ditch, did a 43 point turn. The family moved their ceremony again and we found our way back on the main-ish road, where, after the first guy I asked had looked at me and walked away, someone explained the way to the road to Medahan. It was a major road that was NOT on the map.

2 hours after leaving we arrived at the Charity do...just ahead of the two mini-buses we'd passed was just starting and a chap with long grey hair in a strange red wizard's outfit was just about to make his welcoming speech. We wandered to the bar and bought ourselves a beer (at some 7 times the going rate) and Brigid noted that she was perhaps the only woman in the place not wearing animal prints. Perhaps it was a sympathy thing with the dogs…

Three staff spent 15 minutes, with a calculator, trying to work out how much change to give us from Rp102,000 when the bill was Rp72,000. They got it wrong.

We also noted that the crowd was one of those typical of charity dos, with a few moneyed couples but here, with a decidedly feral and eccentric edge. Older Australian eccentrics tend to have an affinity with this island, and there are lots of them, I guess since Byron Bay got too gentrified. We found a quiet table away from everyone and waited. The wizard and the lady from BARC continued to welcome everyone and made a few in-jokes amongst the feedback. Clearly they all knew each other, and we slipped down into our seats a little more, happy that no-one else was sitting with us at our table.

Then three couples wandered in and pointed in our direction. As they arrived they introduced themselves….Dick, Sheena, Bob, Ted, Carol and Alice or something like that. One guy looked like a leprechaun, but with a big red nose, and the women had very, very heavy makeup. They were loud, English and very Costa del Sol sorts, but also very friendly. And they were smart. They were not gonna pay Rp30,000 (plus 21% tax and service) for a beer. They’d bought their own drinks..cans of coke, something cheap with bubbles and a plastic cork, lagers and an eski full of ice.

Carol then reached over, picked up the bowls with the toothpicks and sugar sticks in them, tipped these onto the table and handed these to Bob, Ted and the rest to use as ashtrays.

The dogswizard then announced the buffet was served. We went out and noted that it looked like it had been sitting there for some hours so we put our heads down and headed off down the highway to hell to Sanur for a pizza.


The point of all this, as long winded as it may seem is the dogs (the one above on the left is ours, Star, a loving loyal, friendly…sometimes…Bali dog). We may have wandered aimlessly for hours like bule-bule gila (crazy white people) and have done a runner from the actual function but at least we gave to the dogs.

And you can too…..please.


Bali Street Dog Foundation (with Paypal)

Bali Street Dogs

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A head of world service / the best of your culture / An evening of fun in the metropolis of your dream

I have two buddies who call themselves Nigel Horrocks. This doesn't confuse me at all as they are very different people.

One used to manage a singer or two, including the wonderful Emma Paki, and owns the house / studio where Crowded House partially recorded Together Alone.

The other used to inspire me for years on the radio with his justifiably legendary jazz shows, and is now the Online Editor and responsible for the dramatic improvement in the NZ Herald's website (just don't blame him for the content, ok....)

This one, and about time, as he was also the editor of NZ's Netguide during it's award winning streak, now has an addictive new-ish blog, nige's random net journey, where he finds all sorts of interesting bits and pieces...witness the Al Green performance on the front page today, or the link to the story about the profile battles between the net giants. I don't have time to find this sort of stuff but it fascinates me so I'm glad someone does.

And on the same tangent, another blog I go to quite often is another mate's, Bob Dakatari (trust me, that is not his real name), whose Daktari's World seems to pull in all sorts of things that I miss, and also picks the best bits of Tom Englehardt's excellent TomDispatch, which for some reason causes an RSS error on my Netvibes. All good stuff for an audio driven lefty....

And, via Bob, I loved this:
No releases will be allowed that are generated entirely by laptop or plug-in. All records should contain at least one certified example of someone hitting something real with a stick, yelling into a microphone, wrapping strings around an object and strumming them. That kind of thing. Documentary proof, photos etc, will be required.
Thanks guys, dunno what I would do without you.

When you're in a hole, stop digging

Yes its a minor thing to get excited about, but having watched this I thought I'd post it. I don't watch Chris Matthews often, and really have no idea who this other guy is, just another vacuous right wing slogan swinging radio talk show host, as we find the world over. But its kinda funny and I may make a point of catching Matthews more often.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

And don't tell Me what to do / don't tell me what to say

I'm gonna just briefly point towards Chris Bourke's rather good Dusty Springfield interview over at his blog, which, as an aside, I feel the need to turn to most days...

It dates back few years to Chris' days at Rip It Up magazine.

One has to ask, when is someone going to give Murray Cammick a big fat advance to start pulling all this stuff together, both on-line and in print.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Yesterday / I was afraid of today

Peter McLennan over at Dub Dot Dash has posted about the impending changes at EMI, and mused as to whether they will affect the NZ operation.

johnny-cooperWhilst there are no clear answers to that question (at least publicly), the clear answer is that of course they will. EMI seems to be the first of the major labels with the balls to face the inevitable and part of that inevitability is that branches which are smaller than the average US State sales offices, i.e. rather insignificant, will go, or at least be subservient to bigger regional offices. Already EMI Singapore has gone (with a bigger, But, I guess this is important, much more tech savvy population than NZ...thus greater broadband penetration and a more developed digital culture) and I suspect in the long run even Australia might be rolled into a grand Asian Pacific office logically controlled from Hong Kong.

For NZ this is doubly significant. Firstly because the company has, under current management, led by the highly regarded Chris Caddick, who I’ve been proud to call a friend for some 25 years, been a major player in releasing NZ music. It’s directly signed or licensed repertoire includes Hollie Smith, Goldenhorse, The Black Seeds and much much more. When it comes to mainstream NZ popular music, no-one comes close. And they’ve coupled that with a strong reissue program of their own and other’s classic NZ repertoire, in a time when, if they hadn’t bothered, it would be unavailable, which would be a crime.

Which brings us to the second point of significance, that of it’s history. EMI NZ’s huge local current catalogue is simply a continuation of the most important story and the most important record label in NZ’s history. From the early recordings, pressed in Australia, to Johnny Cooper (pictured above, who made the first rock'n'roll record outside the US) to Space Waltz, they mattered.

For much of it’s history, at least until the late 60s EMI, or HMV as it was known, was about 80% of the NZ recording industry. Not only did it distribute most of the international labels but, until Stebbings came along with Zodiac about 1959, despite some rather legendary indies like Tanza, HMV released the overwhelming bulk of NZ records. In the 1960s if you take Zodiac and HMV out of the picture then the strong NZ recording era becomes rather sad.

Max Merritt & The Meteors In the 1960s and early 1970s HMV / EMI had in-house studios, legendary producer / A&R men like Peter Gable, Peter Dawkins and Alan Galbraith who left us a legacy of pop and psychedelia, much of which stands the test of time and is being intelligently compiled by the current company.

From the mid seventies through to the early nineties EMI NZ ceased to be a major player in the local market, but under Caddick it once again thrived.

Will any of this legacy survive a devolution into a regional office? Probably not, which is sad but also sadly, as I said, inevitable.

For EMI, casting aside the legacy and the sentiment, and from a purely business point of view, now gains little from having an operating company office tucked away in an insignificant bump at the bottom of the world. Nothing that EMI has signed in NZ has contributed in any real way to the profits or standing of the global company and most of it’s physical sales of its ‘priority’ international acts can now be achieved by a sales and / or marketing team. Perhaps 2 or 3 people max. When survival is the issue, extravagates like an NZ stand alone can not be justified.

And neither do the other, what were called majors, need such, for the same reasons (only PolyGram / Universal have provided the parent company with any potential 'acts' over the years). But I suspect only EMI have yet had the balls to come to terms with what is a fairly obvious partial answer to the question: “What next?”.

But the others will. As a good friend with some inside knowledge said this week..

And so it begins........

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