Category Archives: Art

Cranberries etc peddle tobacco to Indonesian kids

Delores O'Riordan of the Cranberries giving a peace sign - or is she asking her fans for a smoke?

It’s that time of year again. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was ranting and raving against the likes of Wolfmother and Chris Carrabba for accepting tobacco sponsorship to play in Indonesia. Well, another crop of muso sell-outs led by the Cranberries (that’s what’s-her-face pictured left) are lining up like dirty little piggies at the tobacco-money trough to play at the Java Rockin’ Land music festival from July 22 to 24.

In other words, they’re telling Indonesian kids it’s cool and sophisticated and very, very sexy to smoke. Nice one, creeps.

Here’s a message from a kind reader, Marita Hefler, drawing my attention to the event and a petition against the show’s tobacco sponsorship. Marita writes:

Hi there, great writing – love your posts about the tobacco industry in Indonesia. Java Rockin’ Land is happening again 22-24 July, with Gudang Garam the main sponsor. There is a petition urging all the bands involved to demand the sponsorship be dumped, see: So far, no artist has responded. Yet again, double standards prevail in the lineup: the Good Charlotte frontman is a UNICEF goodwill ambassador and he and his brother have their own children’s foundation; 30 Seconds to Mars are active in environmental causes, and lead singer Jared Leto support Elysium, a charity to support critically ill children; Neon Trees have said they don’t want to be part of tobacco sponsorship and have played at an anti-smoking gig; Ed Kowalczyk is a World Vision rep. Blood Red Shoes have supported a cancer charity, and The Cranberries are well-known for speaking out about political issues. Apparently international bands just dump their principles in a bin before they board a plane to Jakarta. Disgraceful.

To these musicians I say: Do the right thing. Follow the example of Alicia Keys or Kelly Clarkson, and demand the tobacco companies cancel their sponsorship of the event. Failing this, cancel your shows. That’s the only way you can salvage your credibility in the eyes of people who care about kids in countries like Indonesia, where they are the explicit targets of an aggressive and foul Big Tobacco marketing campaign the likes of which the West has not seen in decades (because it was made illegal). By playing at this event you are being used by tobacco companies to create young nicotine addicts in a way that would be unacceptable and illegal in your home countries.

Acceptance of the tobacco money means you are either desperate for cash, or so greedy that you don’t give a damn about your young fans. Or both. Oink oink!

(Photo courtesy of Joe Crimmings Photography)


Sadly, there are “still places” like Indonesia

I had to laugh when I read the following line in this wonderful piece by Andrew Copson in The Guardian: “There are still places where it is illegal to declare yourself as non-religious on your identity papers or official records”.

Yes unfortunately there are still such places, and at least one of them is  Indonesia, that mainly Muslim country which US President Barack Obama recently lauded as a model of tolerance and pluralism. In Indonesia it is impossible to have a legal identity if you are an atheist – you must state your adherence to one of six “religions”. I put that word in commas because the rules bizarrely rank Catholicism and Protestantism as separate religions. The others are Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism (a religion?) and Hinduism. Any alternative beliefs, including the various other branches of Christianity, are invalid and followers of those beliefs are ineligible for ID documents.

I laughed because Indonesia is so desperate to be seen as a powerful, moderate and modern country, yet in fact on so many levels it ranks as one of those unmentionable places that still has such backward laws on its books.

Of course, Indonesia isn’t the only place in the world where religion reigns mightily over reason. Witness the madness being committed in the name of religion in Afghanistan now, with the killings of innocent people in response to a US pastor’s provocative and stupid burning of a copy of the Koran in far-away Florida. In this foul, depressing atmosphere it’s so nice to read a piece of free-thinking such as Copson’s article.

Copson points out that 2011 is the 200th anniversary of Oxford university’s expulsion of the poet Shelley for his publication of a tract arguing the “Necessity of Atheism”.

Today in Britain, non-religious people are not thrown out of universities because they don’t believe in God, but in other parts of the world many suffer this fate – and worse. There are still places where it is illegal to declare yourself as non-religious on your identity papers or official records.

One of the most upsetting stories I was ever told was by a young humanist from Saudi Arabia who grew up so frightened of what would happen if he spoke out loud about his beliefs to another person that the only outlet for his thoughts was to go on long walks away from all people, and speak his mind only to the air. In fact, he never spoke to another human being about his most fundamental beliefs until coming to Britain in his late 20s, and experiencing then for the first time what those of us who live in freedom take for granted: the joyful dynamic of testing and developing our own ideas in conversation and dialogue with others.

In this country the blasphemy laws have been abolished, but elsewhere our fellow men and women face death for speaking and thinking freely.

Indonesia has not yet made blasphemy a capital crime, but some fear it is heading down that road. And anyway Indonesians “face death for speaking and thinking freely”, either at the hands of fanatics for their religious views or at the hands of the security forces for their political ones.

Tobacco ad of the day: smoking as slimmer!

You'll be even slimmer when you're dead

This one goes out to all those women in developing countries who think smoking is a status symbol. Smoking won’t empower you; it will just make you stink and look stupid.

(For more old tobacco ads like this see the Stanford Medical School)

Another Indonesian MP in porn video scandal

An Indonesian lawmaker has claimed that he sold a laptop and forgot that it had pornographic videos of him and his wife on the hard drive. Those videos are now circulating in public and, in theory, he should be under investigation for breaches of the country’s draconian anti-pornography bill.

Iwan Fajarudin said someone from the Purworejo Legislative Council leaked the video. His comments don’t make much sense, however. How can he know who leaked it if, as he claims, he had sold the laptop at a market with the videos still on the hard drive? Surely anyone could have leaked it? Does he know who bought the laptop? Are the police investigating? If not, why not?

Poor old Iwan doesn’t sound all that sharp, to be perfectly frank. His “hard drive” apparently works fine but the software might be a bit slow:

It was my own recklessness and foolishness for not cleaning the files on the laptop when I sold it, including the ones in the recycle bin. Now the video is being used against me, to topple me.

I don’t think he should be charged, of course, but if you’re going to start jailing people for things like this you need to be fair and even-handed about it. That’s the problem with the whole stupid anti-porn law – it’s unenforceable.

It’s a funny coincidence that the acronym of Iwan’s political party is PAN. It sounds like Peterpan, which is the name of a popular Indonesian rock band.

The singer of Peterpan has just been condemned to three-and-a-half years in jail under similar circumstances. Homemade sex clips of Ariel and his lovers, two television personalities, went viral on the Internet last year. The government, particularly those ministers who claim to follow conservative Islamic values and rely on the support of like-minded voters,  decided to make an example of him.

(One of those very pious Islamic politicians is the subject of another highly amusing sex video case which emerged this week. Anis Matta, from the Prosperous Justice Party, is the alleged star of the show, which takes place in a very soapy bathroom. He apparently denies everything and, coincidentally, also claims to be the victim of a political smear campaign. That’s the other trouble with the stupid anti-porn law – it’s so easy to abuse, as the people who championed it for their own cynical political ends are now finding out).

Anyway, back to Ariel, the singer denied publishing or spreading the videos, which is the illegal part. Under the 2008 law, there’s no crime in actually making such a video, you just can’t show it around or publish it in any way.

Ariel said the videos were taken from his laptop without his knowledge by someone at a recording studio. He was charged, tried and convicted. Indonesia looked really, really stupid.

Meanwhile three soldiers who brutally tortured two Papuan civilians, and made a video of the crime, were sentenced to up to 10 months in jail.

I really want to thank the Indonesian government for protecting me from moral depravity.

(Photo by Gisela Giardino via Wikimedia Commons)

NASA’s ‘ghost nebula’ freaks me out

NASA posted this image of something called the “ghost nebula” on its website for Halloween. Don’t know about you but it kinda freaks me out. I mean, how spooky is that face? And it’s huge! I shouldn’t have watched Poltergeist on the weekend…

From the Klan to Hitler: dining out in Indonesia

Happy Halloween! There might be a weird form of logic to the image below if it was some kind of horribly misguided Halloween prank. But it’s not. It’s Indonesia.

This is the latest wall art at the Chopstix noodle restaurant in one of Indonesia’s swishest malls, Plaza Indonesia in central Jakarta. It shows Adolf Hitler sneaking behind a curtain to devour a box of noodles. The swastika isn’t depicted in full, but diners are left in no doubt what they’re looking at.

Funny isn’t it? The folks at Chopstix certainly seem to think so. Fascist extremism, genocide and race hatred really seem to tickle their funny bones. Before Hitler appeared in their restaurant, the wall was filled with a similar depiction of a Ku Klux Klan member. Hahaha!

Sadly, what the morons at Chopstix don’t understand, is that their sense of humour only illustrates the pathetic state of Indonesia’s education system. So many people in this country – 240 million people, world’s third biggest “democracy” blah blah blah – have no understanding of or interest in historical events outside Indonesia. The Enlightenment? Don’t bother us with your Western cultural imperialism! Holocaust? Who says, those evil Jews? Doubt it!

No one who understood the history of the 20th century (and the world as we know it today) would happily take their kids to eat at a restaurant illustrated with a picture of Adolf Hitler. Yet this is what was happening when I visited Chopstix the other day. None of the Indonesians, including a family with two young girls, gave the image a second glance.

What else does it say about the Indonesian mentality? Do people in this mainly Muslim country sympathise with Hitler and Nazism?

If you’d like to make a complaint here’s Chopstix’s number:  (6221) 3983 8792.

Tobacco ad of the day: the kids are not alright

This one goes out to all the bands that are playing at the Java Rockin’Land festival from Friday to Sunday in Jakarta, Indonesia. They’re all a bunch of monkeys doing tricks for the man from the tobacco company for scraps of pretty green. Totally uncool.

This American tobacco ad from the 1950s is targeting teenagers. These days it would be illegal, because of what we now know about the connection between tobacco marketing, addiction, disease and death.

But Indonesia might as well be back in the 1950s. In fact, it is subject to a bigger and bolder tobacco company campaign to create teenage cigarette addicts, and the bands playing this weekend are complicit up to their greedy necks.

A special mention must go to Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional, who a little more than two months ago played a benefit show before an audience of cancer survivors to raise money for cancer care. I guess Big Tobacco just made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Special mention should also go to the promoters, who argue that they are not forcing teenagers to light up. Smoking is a choice, they say. Yes it is, an extremely bad choice which responsible adults should not be promoting as cool or glamorous or masculine or rebellious or anything else but stupid and dangerous.

The bands who are playing this gig are puppets, nothing more. If they ever claimed to have any artistic integrity they are sell-outs of the lowest kind.

And the officials who allow Big Tobacco to run riot in Indonesia are even worse.

This is what Surin Pitsuwan, the secretary-general of the Jakarta-based Association of Southeast Asian Nations  (ASEAN), said this week at a conference on smoking in Asia:

I think the people must be informed that their health is being compromised by some of these public officials who are puppets of a campaign of persuasion. And the irony is these people know better, they don’t smoke, the entire family doesn’t smoke. They become the tools and the partners of strategies almost willingly and that is something that has to be corrected, but it is an uphill struggle.

Tools, puppets, monkeys … whichever way you cut it this song remains the same.

Here is a list of the Big Tobacco stooges who are scheduled to play at the pro-smoking Java Rockin’Land: ARKARNA, DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL, DATAROCK, DI-RECT, GALAXY 7, LIVING THINGS, MUTEMATH, NOT CALLED JINX, SOCIAL CODE, STEREOPHONICS, STEVE FISTER, Stryper, THE SMASHING PUMPKINS, THE VINES, WOLFMOTHER (plus a host of local acts).

(For more old tobacco ads check out the Stanford School of Medicine)