Saturday, May 10, 2008

Marching backward, forward / marching till I die

Cigarettes have a strange place, almost esteemed, in Indonesian society.

Whereas the smoker is largely a pariah elsewhere on the planet, not so here. Nobody thinks twice about lighting up at the table next to you and blowing smoke across your meal as you eat. I find southern Europeans are probably the worse at this as their almost compulsory addiction / habit has recently been banned from public places in their homeland, so they enjoy their last gasp of freedom, at other’s expense, whilst they can before returning home.

The concept of asking someone if they mind before puffing grotesque clouds across you seems alien to the Indonesian psyche. This country is the smokers’ last refuge. Even in China smoking is banned in many public places. Not here, and even in the odd place where it’s technically illegal, the ban is happily ignorable. Like the malls where security stand next to no-smoking signs fag in hand, or the airports (where the smoking lounge is a few seats in a corner with no walls or glass to divide it from the main room). And the coffee shops are all sponsored by cigarette companies. As, for that matter, is just about everything else. The cigarette companies support every event, including the soccer World Cup (which was promoted on TV by a bunch of puffing athletes kicking around a ball).

This is the country where cigarette advertising is allowed to happily tell you that smoking actually is good for you…it gives you strength.

Where you can go to see a band and the price of entry includes a drink ticket and a packet of kretek.

This is a country with allegedly the highest death rate from lung cancer in the world which allows its High School students to go on school field trips to see the hell-hole factories of Kudus where up to 50,000 work in the sort of places that thankfully, with vastly improved general conditions in recent years, are a thing of the past in the rest of Indonesia.

But since the payroll networks (and 5% of the government’s income) of the ciggie companies are vast and the cost to the country’s health system, in an absolutely we don’t care system, irrelevant, I guess they get a bit of a blind eye.

It’s encouraging though, to see that the powers are looking at removing tobacco sponsorship… some stage in the future.

With such a freewheeling attitude towards fags and such nicely compliant legislators its little wonder that the likes of Philip Morris are happy to invest so freely in the likes of PT. Sampoerna, the makers of the recent A-volution square ciggie (well the packet at least)

But one wonders, with all that money, and all that global reach, how Philip Morris were unable to come up with a slogan better than the gibberish of “Begin What Next”


“Begin What Next”…what the hell sort of sentence or phrase is that. I know what they are trying to say, but…”Begin What Next”?? It means nothing to a non-English speaker and even less to someone who does.

And from their web-site:

Size doesn’t always matter, since a ‘begin what next’ spirit from Avolution has bought you a big smooth taste

Which too, is absolute gibberish. Not only is Philip Morris slowly and happily killing off the (mostly male…69% smoke) population of Indonesia, they’re doing it with incomprehensible grammar and slogans.

I encounter Indonesians daily with perfect English. So why in hell can’t companies work these things out. Like the mess over the Visit Indonesia 2008 slogan, I feel embarrassed for these people.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

walking / walking a straight line

And from the pages of the NZ Herald.....

The show, which transforms ordinary people into their favourite pop star, was last week won by a woman impersonating Brit-pop legend, Debbie Harry.

Apart from the fact that she is two decades out genre wise and the width of the Atlantic Ocean away from Brit-Pop (the NY punkette was from New Jersey and had little to do with Oasis or Blur etc), its good to see that  Michelle Coursey is maintaining the paper's reputation for journalistic accuracy.

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