Friday, September 18, 2009

We Gave Our Today For Your To-Morrow

Brigid, our 14 year old, Bella, and I spent two hours on a local bus to Kanchanaburi today, to the North West of Bangkok, to visit the site of the famous River Kwai bridge, as mythologized, not altogether accurately in the 1957 movie.

For all the tackiness of the surroundings of the actual bridge, which sits amongst countless souvenir stalls, people with very sad looking tigers and leopards (100 Baht to sit next to them for a photo, poor bloody things), it is something humbling to see. The most bizarre part of it was a young, quite clearly Japanese, girl, selling "Death Railway" postcards. Odd.

In the centre of the town sits Kanchanaburi Cemetery, where many, just under 7,000, of those who died on the Death Railway are interred (or at least the Commonwealth dead...the graves of some 270,000 Asian forced labourers are mostly unknown).

And you wonder again, despite everything you have read and seen on screen and paper, when confronted with the awful reality of it all, about the horror and pointlessness of what humans, mostly men, do to each other, century after century.

Nothing I could write here could express more than the images below, and most especially some of the very sad and poignant messages from home on the grave markers:






















Monday, September 14, 2009

She ought to think twice / She ought to do right by me

Gosh....Beatles demolish UK albums. The number one album, from dear old Dame Vera Lynn, bless...only managed 32,000

As 16 of the albums made the Top 75, Elvis Presley’s record of 14 simultaneous Top 75 albums, established in September 1978 a couple of weeks after his death, is eclipsed. It is certain that the impact of individual Beatles remasters was adversely affected by the release of the stereo and mono boxed sets, which pass into history as the most expensive chart entries ever. OCC recorded nearly 127,000 Beatles album sales last week, a tally which swells to more than 270,000 if the albums in the boxed sets are counted individually.

[From Music Week]

One child grows up to be / somebody that just loves to learn

We were down in Jalan Dhyana Pura, or as the ockers say 'drink street' (doncha love them..where would be without suburban Australia lowering the level of just about everything they see or touch to the base: eat, drink, fart and drink more. Oh, and of course, watch ball sports and yell inane things at people on screens who can't possibly hear them).

Sadly, it's been of the curses of this gilded isle (but where would the tourist barons been without them to fill the bars and clubs of Kuta and Tuban). And I have to agree with this blogger, who, I guess, is talking of his fellow countrymen, or maybe not. But either way, the Bintang singleted (often, even more gruesomely not wearing it, but carrying it in hand, as they sway their ample hanging gut for all to enjoy), and swilling, tattooed, loud, fat Australian male is one of the more offensive sights you can see here.

And you see lots of them. Lots. With their just as offensive young, just pubescent, ockers in training following them loudly down the street, in the same uniform, carrying the same beer.

The first family

So, down at Dhyana Pura we were. We, Brigid and I, were at Antique, one of Bali's better restaurants (and happily just edgy enough to keep out the swilling masses).

Next door is one of the large numbers of gay bars in a street where ladyboys are almost as common as the drug dealers and the undercover cops who work with them (buy off one on a corner, his mate is on the next and you find yourself bruised and several thousand dollars poorer within 24 hours).

For some odd reason they have a TV above the bar showing mostly footy, at least in the early hours before the lady boys and those who swoop on the street looking for their company turn up around 1am, and, I guess, hope that it may drag random passing ockers in for a swift one or two and a few loud jeers at the opposing team on the TV.

And sitting outside Antique watching, I have to say it works. Well kinda. There was an endless stream of blokes with Mrs. Ocker wandering past, Bintang (large) in hand. Hubby would catch something in the corner of his eye, stop and yell at Mrs.Ocker to "STOP!!"

Mrs Ocker would obey and hubby, with a sway of that ample gut, would scream out from the street a few choice "You're fuckin' joking!" and "No, No, No yer fuckwit" and so on at the distant screen, pause for a moment, look at Mrs. Ocker, and snarl "c'mon" and stagger off.

So, yes, I largely agree with much of that post. However I find myself grimacing a little at the phrase:

It’s certainly not the Balinese people, who are amongst the most respectful, beautiful, tolerant and patient people on this earth.

So having made some wild generalisations on this post, I have to backstep a little and say how much I hate stereotypes. And of course the stereotype found in that description of a whole people is grossly rose tinted. But oft expressed.

Are there wonderful respectful, beautiful, tolerant and patient people on Bali. Well, yes. There are. They exist in Sydney too. And in Auckland. Are there nasty, greedy, malignant people in the Balinese population? Well, yes. And they exist in Sydney too. And in Auckland. And so on.

I'm extraordinarily uncomfortable with the way the myth of Bali (and yes, much of it is a myth, created by travel agents and others with vested interests since the 1920s. The real history of this island is very much darker and extraordinarily violent, much of which simmers still under the's only 43 years since Balinese took upon themselves to slaughter 5% of their population in a blood fest which still haunts large parts of Bali, and the Balinese to this day can often be very brutal to each other) seems to be so easily accepted by so many visitors, but I guess that underlines the success of the marketing over the decades.

Myself, I find myself biting my tongue when I hear or read things like that. Or witness someone saying "they are all so generous" or, "they're all so serene", or any of the other nonsense phrases that trip off the tongues of countless tourists and websites.

Because 'they're" not anything of the sort, they're a living, breathing population of people, good, bad, talented, mediocre, artistic, uninspired and all of those things and none of those things. Not an exhibit with set qualities. Mickey Mouse or Darth Vader have set qualities because they're invented, whereas people from the island of Bali are not..unless you count the invented stereotype.

Balinese are short, tall, fat, skinny, ugly, pretty..unless of course if you agree that all Australians are are fat beer swilling slobs. It's a pretty big thing to say they are all...

It kinda gets to me.