Saturday, May 05, 2007

I wanna be in Auckland Tonight.....

In my relentless pursuit of all things creaky and old, I’ve done a page on my site covering Bryan Staff’s absolutely legendary Ripper label, which existed from 1979 thru to 1983 and without which…….

Consider it both a tribute and an attempt to document....

Thursday, May 03, 2007

when a nation hides it's organic growth / In a cellar / dark and dim

I need to lighten up on my reading. I used to read a fairly balanced mix of fiction and non fiction but no longer. I don’t actually know why but that’s just the way it is. The world I’m living in right now seems a fairly entrancing mash of fantasy and cruel reality, so perhaps I don’t need the fiction at the moment…I’ll get back to it and, on writing this, I feel a craving…..

But I do need to lighten up. Yesterday I finished Iris Chang’s devastating Rape of Nanking and I followed it with a google, as I do, reading the Japanese response, which seemed a little sad and delusional, but still underlines the fear much of Asia has to the current rush to re-arm by the Japanese nation, and the ignorance, once again, of history and contemporary attitudes outside the beltway shown by Bush in his push to give them F-22s and the like. And you have to wonder if the re-teething of other Asian nations has more to do with that than any fear of Sino aggression. Memories last a very long time here….

And I’m reading Geoffrey Robinson’s Dark Side Of Paradise, a history of political violence in Bali over the past century. The historical perspective it gives to “paradise”, and especially those, like the commentator on my last post, murmuring about his “paradise lost”, very much a western concept and utterly divorced from historic realities, is important to me. Less than 2km from where I type, a whole village was massacred…everybody…by the forces of reaction in 1965. And so few, anywhere understand the horror in paradise past.

Finally, I’m quite a way into Richard Evan’s compelling The Third Reich in Power, a seemingly definitive history of the pre-war years in Germany and the acquiescence and ease at which a democratic, but fiercely militarised and self proud society, albeit with all the trappings of “freedom” was led down the road to Auschwitz and Barbarossa, almost without a murmur from the masses.

Which is why, and yes Godwin’s Law and all before someone reminds me, things like this give me such great unease:

Loyalty Day, 2007

….. We believe deeply in freedom and self-government, values embodied in our cherished documents and defended by our troops over the course of generations. Our citizens hold the truths of our founding close to their hearts and demonstrate their loyalty in countless ways. We are inspired by the patriotic service of the men and women who wear our Nation's uniform with honor and decency.……..

Although the day goes back to 1921, I can’t help but feeling this particular proclamation has a little darkness about it in 2007, given the events of the last few years. I detest patriotism in virtually any form, and this century, nowhere has it been abused more dangerously than in the United States. Couple it with this (yes via Greenwald again…but I like him, and this is yet another must-read), as an editorial in one of the United States’ leading newspapers, and we have a lot, all of us, to be worried about.

It creeps; it really does….five years ago would any of us be discussing whether torture was acceptable in US prisons. Godwin be damned, there is a slow slide to something in the world’s only superpower. And I think Obama scares the be-jesus out of me too…he has visions of his own grandeur and twigs the ugly shadow of patriotism and national destiny as much as the Bushies do.

Monday, April 30, 2007

gotta get yourself a bargain son / don't be sold on the very first one

You know you may have been in the third world too long when you find yourself getting excited about a Hypermarket opening. But, sad to report, that’s been exactly the case this week. You see, right there on Jl Sunset, the enormous Carrefour chain has opened an enormous store complete with an enormous car-park, and enormous sign and enormous crowds.

So here we all are in Paradise (and make no mistake, Bali still feels like just that...two years here, with all the frustrations that implies, have not dampened that belief) and yet the whole island is abuzz with the opening of what is really, to many of we expats, simply a large faceless superstore of the type which dominates every town, big or small, in our native lands. And, inevitably, kills off the all the smaller businesses in that town. Whether it does that here is a matter of conjecture, because, generally, its no cheaper than the other places, has the same stock and only has glitz and convenience to offer.

But I guess that’s the key to it’s success and its hard to overstate the impact a shop like this must have on the overwhelming majority of Balinese who have never, or only once or twice, left the island (especially as the relic from a dictatorship..the Fiskal exit tax shows little sign of being abolished). Both Brigid and I were wondering what the endless overstocked shelves (shelves here generally have a sparse few of each item), well lit aisles (aisles here tend to be dark with low wattage bulbs, half of which are blown, perhaps as a sign of solidarity with the traffic lights) and the seemingly efficient, helpful, knowledgeable staff (usually rare), must look like to the uninitiated. Not only that, but each item has a price sticker, so the idea of having to wait half an hour while several girls scroll through the catalogue on the Windows 3.1 driven database in the PC for the price, goes out the window.

But sadder than all that was the supposedly A list expats wandering the aisles too grinning as their old world somehow comes a little closer. Of course the Jl Laksama expat shop girls on “business visas” haven’t quite made it, as all their time is taken scrambling around trying to find enough change for the next Ku De Ta sunset cocktail, or trying to edge oneself into the tragic, expats only, social pages in the Bali Times.

We, being as a sad as the rest, wandered in last Saturday, as we killed time waiting for Antique to open for dinner, as you do. And we were pleased to note that they haven’t managed to excise every last bit of the island….a Dolce & Gabbana shop, complete with Versace and Paul Smith knock offs of course, had managed to sneak into the first level, and there were still absolutely no trash bins to be found anywhere.

The Periplus bookshop on the ground lantai was strategically next to KFC too, and the smell wafted though as you browsed the same 50 bloody books they have in every other branch....the Colonel had thought that one out well.

And Bali’s best Italian Restaurant (which is actually a bit of a statement, as we have many very, very good ones), Trattoria, had queues outside its pizza slice window in the food hall, which also boasts Teppanyaki for about US$1.50 a head.

As we left, we all made snide remarks about how businesses like this are ruining the soul of the island…as we all made mental notes about the best floor to park on for quick access, and wondered if, like all the locals queuing up, we expats are too allowed to open accounts.

Sad fuckers……

incidentally the photo on this post has nothing to do with any of this...I felt like posting a picture of my friend Shaun at Ulawatu in a purple skirt.....