Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Are you taking over / or are you takin' orders

Censorship, it’s a funny thing. Why a cable channel decides to screen a movie such as Layer Cake, here in Indonesia and then subjects it to the normal round of pious cuts is beyond me…that is, removing all drug references, any sex and any swearing or blasphemy before showing it, so it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Why bother…..I guess it adds another dimension to the movie, trying to figure out what in god’s name is going on…odd.

And thinking of rock’n’roll. We were invited up to the, ever so fabulous, Alila Hotel in the Ubud Hills on Friday night for the launch of the new Alila in house CD. The evening was centred around the performance by a singer-songwriter, Made J (whose name, to a New Zealander, might well evoke unpleasant memories of a similarly named Matty J and a heinous sub Vanilla Ice moment called Colourblind a decade or so ago). Fortunately Made, whose musical lineage seemed to come more from Robert Johnson than Matty’s pallid, watery, attempt at sub Bobby Brown R’n’B, was rather more pleasant to the ears.

So there we were, the invited guests at a rock’n’roll event being held in the dining pavilion, at dinner time, or thereabouts; in one of Bali’s most famously serene resorts. With a glorious backdrop of one the worlds most renown pools...indeed, the world’s original infinity pool, falling off into a humid Ubud valley of dark green, still steaming after an afternoon shower.

And we were not alone. The show, since it was being recorded exclusively by and for iTunes, was rather well attended. Some of the attendees were guests of the artist, some invited VIPs, and some, I think, had no idea that they were about to be treated to something contemporary and musical, albeit amplified (although not outrageously it must be said). They were the hotel guests. And therein lay the problem, the clash (a rather appropriate word I think) between two vastly opposing cultures. There were quite a number of well fed middle aged and beyond, largely, I’d say, very wealthy couples enjoying their very expensive dinner at this tranquil resort-spa in the hills when the guests started to arrive.

Or to be more precise, the culture collision occurred…..like one of those buckling high speed locomotive crashes in the old sepia westerns. You really have to ask: what in gods name were the hotel management thinking. I understand the concept: reasonably high brow, some might say, adult contemporary music…still with an obvious cutting edge…and a hotel that tries to position itself somewhere on the edge of style. It seemed like a match made in some sort of heaven. But the reality was, of course, somewhat different and that was no more obvious (and inevitable) than when the Mohawk-ed punk fashionistas, piercings intact, arrived from Kuta.

Of course some of those shaking over their Chardonnay had perhaps done more in their eminent careers to cause harm (mostly economic) to other human beings, behind a boardroom door, than any of the punks or punkettes present would ever be capable of. But that’s’ beside the point and beyond the scope of this post….

When Brigid and I first arrived Made was still performing a quiet-ish semi-acoustic set to warm up…but you could already feel the seething anger amongst the pre-booked dinning couples. One guy in particular was sitting near the stage rolling his glass’ edge on the table and clearly only just holding it together. His wife, to whom he communicated nothing beyond a regular glare (I would imagine the weekend was her idea by the looks), sat there trying to roll with their predicament, tapping her feet now and then, out of time of course, forcing an unenthusiastic replica of an enthusiastic smile. And the longer they sat, the more, rapidly drinking and chain smoking, Made J fans placed themselves on the steps around their table. And then Made turned up the volume.

And then the Kuta punk contingent arrived. Not that many mind…half a dozen or so at the most. But they had the hair, and the studs, and the eyeliner and everything they had on, with the exception the silver of the studs and the skull and pistol screenprinting ink on their ripped t-shirts, was black. The ripples of discomfort spread across the tables. You could smell it (actually you could smell some of the punks too, but that’s part of the calculated allure of punkdom). Husbands looked fearfully at their wives who were now obviously in danger of being violated right there and then. And the wives, with the clear and present knowledge all their present worldly goods were now liable to be wrenched from them at any moment, quickly tucked their bags under their crossed arms, and then crossed their legs…..and refused, no matter the pain, to go to the toilet in case……

Yes, of course, I’m exaggerating the last bit somewhat for effect…but the fear was real

However point is, as I said earlier…what in hells name possessed the hotel management to do such a thing. To smash the allure to the Alila with a rock’n’roll gig; to face the inevitable demands for room refunds the next day and the swathe of bad word of mouth that was utterly inevitable from a gig like this. I could’ve told them….anyone who’s done such a gig could’ve warned them of the risk, especially when the artist invites friends.

Were they swayed by the lure of iTunes, or by the thought of the cutting edge nature implied by such a gig. Or was the manager leaving and wanted to see a band….who knows….but I guarantee whatever the reason, the in room mayhem left in the various after-show party suites (I was in one…are peanut shells hard to get out of a carpet??) negated the benefit….

We went for a swim in the morning to clear our heads

The odd thing is, we didn’t ever get to see the CD…nobody mentioned it…once…

Monday, February 26, 2007

tell me / don't I ever cross your mind / sometimes

9890…..this number scares the hell out of me. And it should you too. The number quoted is the median number found in a survey last week of Americans, asking how many Iraqi civilians have been killed since the invasion.

Even scarier is that 52% of those asked put the civilian dead at less than 10,000, whilst only 11% put the figure at more than 50,000. Of course, the only reliably sampled figure we have to date puts the probable figure, a year ago, at between 350,000 and 900,000 lives lost...a figure which stands as the only credible figure we have despite the voluminous efforts of the hard right to discredit it.

Even Bush, in his response to the Lancet survey touted a figure of 30,000…a figure so ludicrously low that nobody beyond his borders could be expected to give it any credibility. But pronounce it he did, and some traction it obviously did have.

Of course what scares the hell out of me is the ignorance that this survey illustrates too well. It goes far beyond the sort of almost humorous global geographic unawareness that I parodied at the start of this post. On the basis of this survey 89% of those surveyed either have no idea or think that the number of innocents killed is so ludicrously low that it defies reasonable thought. Simply put, they have absolutely no idea of what hell their government and their military have wrought, or are about to, in far lands, in their freedom lovin' name. And they seem not to care enough to find out...after all, as I said elsewhere, they are only against this war because they are having their nuke tipped butts kicked.

No idea at all....and it reminds me of this, yet again….superpower? No it’s a manipulated intellectual kindergarten with a few flashes of brilliance around the edges….. oh and lots of bombs....