Category Archives: Culture

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: http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-international-bands-to-drop-tobacco-sponsorship-in-indonesia. 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)

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Looking for a no-smoking zone in Indonesia

A website sent in by a reader seems to be a compilation of pictures of Indonesian men smoking in shops. It happens all the time and there’s nothing non-smokers can do except leave the shop. You’d have more luck asking the pope to dance the can-can than getting one of these guys to stub out their cigarettes or take it outside.

Check it out – http://itcroxymasjakarta.wordpress.com

I recently took a friend to Cork and Screw (Kuningan), an up-market wine bar and restaurant in Jakarta, and asked if they had a non-smoking area. The waiter, all dressed up like he was on the Champs Elysees, looked bemused and had to think about what we meant. Finally he told us that if we didn’t like cigarette smoke we could eat dinner  out on the service bar near the cash register. In other words they didn’t have a non-smoking area. The waiter explained that it was a wine bar, and people like to smoke when they drink wine.

Silly me, thinking that a restaurant in the 21st century that aspires to be cosmopolitan and sophisticated would have a non-smoking area. In other countries, of course, I might have trouble finding a smoking area, because the whole restaurant would be a smoke-free, healthy breathing kind of place. But no, this is Indonesia, and it has a very, very long way to go.

It was early and not very busy so my friend and I decided to put up with the smoke and eat anyway. We ordered a hugely overpriced bottle of wine (alcohol is the drink of the devil and rich foreigners, you see, so it is subject to massive taxes in mainly Muslim Indonesia) and asked for the menus. When the wine came we tasted it and both agreed it was off. It had soured, probably because it had been exposed to varying temperatures as it was transported from Australia. The waiter didn’t know what we were talking about, and offered to give it to us in different glasses. We said no thanks. Then a more senior waiter came over and said he would have to get the restaurant’s in-house “sommelier” to taste the wine. I watched as he took the bottle over to a guy who was smoking cigarettes at the bar with a woman, who was also smoking and drinking a giant fruit cocktail with a pink umbrella. The “sommelier” swished a bit of wine around in his glass and had a couple of gulps, but seemed unable to decide if it was OK. He gave the glass to one of the bar tenders who also had a swig before passing it over to a third bar tender for yet another taste. Strange sort of sommelier, I thought to myself. Low self-esteem, perhaps? Lacking confidence? Anyway, the waiter brought the bottle back to us and told us the wine was in fact good. We said no thanks, the wine was in fact off. Then the restaurant’s manager come over and had a taste himself. He said maybe it would be better if he chilled it for us for precisely two minutes. We said no thanks that would make no difference at all. So the manager said he would talk to his number-one sommelier, the really serious expert in the house, who ended up being the woman I’d noticed smoking at the bar. She put down her fruit cocktail and cigarette and had a sip, then another, etc etc etc. Finally she came over and said the wine was good. I told her the wine was not good and we weren’t going to pay for it. By this stage my friend and I were laughing. At least they had the decency to accept our position, but it took an awful lot of rather silly posturing before they did.

My friend and I concluded that it’s a waste of time trying to buy wine with a meal in an Indonesian restaurant unless you want to pay about $80 for a $30-dollar bottle. Otherwise, you pay $40 for the cheapest plonk they have. As for trying to escape the smokers, forget it.

Meanwhile the country continues to bow to Big Tobacco and sidestep meaningful reform to its smoking regulations that would bring it in line with the rest of the world. The latest news is that regulations to limit cigarette advertising will not be brought in as planned because of “technicalities”.  As Arist Merdeka Sirait, chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection, told the Jakarta Globe, the government’s decision contradicted the Health Law.

The law clearly states tobacco as an addictive substance and clearly addictive substances should not be advertised. The government should ask themselves, what do they care about more, income or the future or our children?

If you go to that Jakarta Globe link, check out the comment from the religious nut regarding tobacco and the Koran. Smoking  can “stop you from the sole purpose of having been sent to the world, namely the remembrance of Allah”.

I don’t know about you, but I can think of a few other reasons to live.

Roasting coffee on a Sunday (better than church)

In honour of Koran-burning, rabble-rousing Pastor Terry Jones and his ecstatic (read wacko) disciples, I decided to write a blog about something better to do with a Sunday than going to church. Roasting coffee!

Yes folks it’s actually more productive and fun than voodoo, witchdoctery and inciting other religious nut-jobs to violence, and if you do it right you won’t get anyone on the other side of the world beheaded. Right on!

People like Pastor Jones and Mullah Omar (for they are closely related species) could even use coffee roasting as a kind of non-violent therapy. Roast beans instead of witches! Peace.

Seriously though, I decided to roast coffee beans today because the news from the world outside my little apartment was just too depressing. It was my therapy for the disturbing madness of people like Jones and his counterparts in Afghanistan and Indonesia etc.

So I went to the helpful breworganic.com and read up on the basics. Pretty simple really, much as I had guessed from watching coffee being roasted at a shop in France years ago. You can use popcorn poppers to get an even roast but I don’t have one of those so I used a wok. The website mentions using a frying pan but as woks are made to evenly distribute heat over a larger surface I thought I’d go with one of those instead.

I didn’t bother measuring the temperature in the wok. I just put it on a medium-high heat for a couple of minutes so it was good and hot, threw in about a cup of beans and started stirring.

I’d bought the beans a few months ago in East Timor. Timor is famous for its coffee, but the tiny little country has hardly any industry so it’s not that great at marketing its products. I bought two kilograms (four pounds) of green beans and two of roasted beans from a wiry, cheerful old man in a wooden shack near Dili airport. If I was Elizabeth Gilbert I might have stayed for a while and asked him to read my palm. But I’m not Elizabeth Gilbert so I paid him a nice tip over his heartbreakingly low asking price of around $5 a kilogram and went on my way. The roasted beans were great, and when I finished them last week it was time to get the green ones out of the freezer and try roasting them myself.

The coffeereview website sums up East Timorese coffee thus:

In terms of taste, most current versions of Timor are typical for small-holder wet-processed coffees from the islands of the Malay Archipelago: Low-key, sweet, with a musty pungency that can range from soft and intriguing to hard and oppressive. However, the very best and cleanest-tasting Timors can be extraordinary: full, round, smooth, sweet, and deliciously cocoa-toned. These coffees, already promising, may continue to improve as the first decade of the millennium unfolds.

By way of explanation for tea drinkers like my Taliban friends, coffee is all about freshness. They say green beans will keep for about two years, roasted beans for about two weeks and ground beans for two hours. Or something like that. I can’t really tell the difference, but then again I’ve never drunk coffee that I was 100% sure was freshly roasted – another good reason to roast my own.

The trick, according to breworganic, is to keep stirring. You don’t need any oil or anything in the pan – just chuck in the beans and stir. Coffee beans are flat on one side and curved on the other, so naturally they tend to fall on the flat side. Keep stirring to make sure the curved side gets its share of the heat.

After a couple of minutes they start to brown. Then they start to audibly crack. The experts have a very technical term for this phase of the process. They call it the “first crack”. Just keep stirring. You’ll see the beans getting browner. By this stage, after four minutes or so in my case, the beans were light brown and had reached what’s called a light or cinnamon roast. I could have taken them off the heat then but I wanted a darker roast, in the Italian or French style, so I kept stirring.

I’d bought some lightly roasted New Guinean beans in Paris a while ago and didn’t like their grassy, sour taste. Basically the more you roast the more flavours you get in the coffee.

After a few more minutes my beans started to smoke. I had to open the door and windows to avoid setting off the fire alarms. This is a normal reaction, so I kept stirring. Then the beans started to crack again. Strangely enough, the experts call this phase the “second crack”. Now I knew I was close. I was lifting the wok to toss the beans around, while stirring all the time, much like a stir-fry. Even so, some beans looked darker than others. That’s normal in a do-it-yourself roasting operation like mine, I suppose. It took about 10 minutes to get the beans nice and dark the way I wanted them.

The next picture shows the lightly roasted New Guinean beans on the top left, some  Sumatran beans I’d bought in a supermarket in Jakarta on the top right, and my home-roasted Timorese beans below.

You can see the greener Papua beans are dry compared to the more oily Sumatran and Timorese beans, which have been roasted longer.

They say you should leave the beans for 24 hours to allow the chemical processes started with the roasting to run their course. So I’ll have to wait a night before I get to blend my beans and brew them in my Italian-style percolator. With a bit of toast and honey, hopefully it will make for a great Monday morning!

And I did it all without getting any blood on my hands, unlike the American pastor.

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)

Words of blogging wisdom

Here are some words of wisdom about blogging from Greg Jericho, a.k.a Grogs Gamut, who became Australia’s best-known blogger when his identity was revealed by a mainstream newspaper last year. His musings about policy matters and election news coverage had drawn the attention, and apparently the ire, of mass media bigwigs, who decided the public had a right to know who he was.

Anyway, Greg has given his thoughts on blogging to the Walkleys Foundation. Here’s what he said:

  • About page design: “You will most likely spend far too long trying to get the look of your blog just right. I wouldn’t worry too much”
  • Identity: “You don’t need to be famous, but you do need to be part of the community within which you are wanting to blog”
  • Focus: “Get a theme and make sure it’s clear. Readers need to know what they are likely to get when they read your blog”
  • Forget fame: “Seriously. No-one will read it. It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter that it is for free. It doesn’t matter that you have been commenting on blogs for over a year. It doesn’t matter that you have a thousand followers on Twitter. It doesn’t matter that you write beautiful prose. For the first 18 months of my blog if on any one day I had over 25 hits, I would get giddy at my ‘popularity’. If you are writing a blog to get attention, forget it. You should be writing it because you love to write about whatever you are writing about. Otherwise you won’t last long enough to actually get an audience.”
  • Be regular: “This doesn’t mean every day, but if not they should at least know your pattern.”
  • Be personal: “Sure you need to have a theme, but one of the most-read posts I ever wrote was about my 15-year-old cat dying”

So there you have it. Greg adds that you should “pimp your blog” on Twitter and Facebook etc, but everyone knows that, right? He also says it’s a labour of love that will take up a lot of your time:

I used to watch DVDs, TV shows and read long-fat Russian novels. Now I write a blog. But who hasn’t ever had a hobby that took over their life? You’re not going to get rich writing your blog, so you’d better love doing it.

I’m obviously not following many of Greg’s rules but it’s good advice to anyone who is serious about their blogging or might be thinking about it.

Strangely, he doesn’t mention the need to brighten up posts with images or graphics, which is something I try to do (though not today). Can anyone offer any other suggestions or think of things Greg might have forgotten?

Indonesian extremist of the day: like father like son

I found this little boy at a rally of the Hizbut Tahrir, a radical Islamist group, in central Jakarta. How old is he, five? Does he think adulterers should be stoned to death, one of Hizbut Tahrir’s core beliefs? Does he know what an adulterer is? Can he read the sign he’s holding, attacking a Christian church group? Does he know what a Christian is? For that matter, does he know what a Muslim is?

I feel so sorry for this little kid. What a waste of human potential. I think of those child soldiers in Sierra Leone and elsewhere, raised as ignorant, blind extremists.  Many of those children were kidnapped and brainwashed by rebels. The shocking thing about this kid is that his own parents are doing this to him, in the name of a mainstream religion and at a time of peace and prosperity in his country.

Indonesia extremist freakshow Pt2

These thuggish religious fanatics are members of some of the Islamic extremist groups currently propagating in Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation and a beacon of tolerance and diversity (according to that eternal optimist Barack Obama).

If you look closely behind the banners of religious intolerance, you can see the Sukarno-era “Statue of Welcome”. Erected in the 1960s as a symbol of Indonesia’s emergence as an independent country, it soars above the central Jakarta traffic circle. Nowadays it’s a favourite spot for extremists to scream through loudspeakers about the need for sharia law and the stoning of adulterers.