Sunday, April 27, 2008
This week I was delighted to find out that the Jakarta City Government Tourist Office have done something constructive in order to promote our fair and lovely city. I happened upon a thin booklet full of sumptuous color photographs entitled Enjoy Jakarta: Jakarta Shopping.
This slim volume is well printed, attractively presented and includes a handy map at the back to help you on your way. So impressed was I with this promotional literature that I intend to quote from it at some length in today's MM.
Let's get down to brass tacks then. The very first sentence sets the tone nicely for the rest of the booklet:
"Shopping world in Jakarta is the greaters and colourful recently with the opening of some new shopping centres." Riiiight. After this punchy preface we are straight into the meat of the Jakarta shopping experience. " Let say, Pondok Indah Mall at South Jakarta that reach settle shopper (or high-class shoppers) and exclusive Kelapa Gading Mall that is more suitable for young shopper, socialised, and dynamic."
Facilities are apparently there for the nomadic shopper in spades and we are informed that, "You don't need to feel confuse to eat because the food courts and restaurants are ready to serve." It's nice to be reassured that mental perplexity is not a prerequisite for ordering a fried rice at these places, as personally I prefer to eat when I'm hungry as opposed to bamboozled.
Clothes are always a good buy in Jakarta and we are wisely advised to, "Just scratch your credit card or just give away your money to bring home men and women wardrobe from famous designers." If you are after some cheaper rags though, our comprehensive shopping pamphlet won't let you down. Tanah Abang textile market is also featured in the booklet and we are given some handy tips such as, "Ignore your doubt to bargain the price when we shop in central market of fashion and textile. Especially if you shop for fabric pattern or wardrobe in huge capacity."
Older, more traditional markets, such as Senen, are not neglected however. "Don't ever say that you've come to Jakarta if you have not go to Proyek Senen. Even though there are rapid grow of fancy malls in Jakarta, Proyek Senen is still choosen by Jakarta citizens to do their business." I personally prefer the comfort of my own bathroom but we later learn that, "More modern shopping conveniences can be found in department stores next door."
Jakarta's up-to-the-minute, sophisticated malls are the real subject of our booklet however. We learn of Pondok Indah Mall that, "Sophisticated aura is really happening in every tenant." Further flung plazas such as Kelapa Gading Mall are also discussed. The Jakarta City Government Tourism Office's hyperbole knows no bounds and we are gleefully informed that, "There are so much choices, make us walk around the are first to decide which is the best for us to buy or step by." I'm glad we got that cleared up.
The pamphlet continues for several more pages in this high falutin' literary style. I'm only able to give you a few examples of its inspiring and poetic language use in one column but let's have a few final quotes for the road eh?
Taman Anggrek? "More than hundreds of shop and boutique we can find here, with each uniquely." Pasar Rawa Belong Flower Market? "Fulfill your lungs with the freshness of flowers." That's poetry. Pasar Rawa Bening Jewellery Market? "Chinese like more traditional patterns on their ring." Ahem! I think we had better leave it there.
Enjoy Jakarta: Jakarta Shopping is currently available around town. Alternatively, inquiries can be addressed to the Jakarta City Government Tourist Office (www.Jakarta-tourism.go.id). Nexts weeks is returns Metro Madness is with full ingredients of vitality must for your pleasure.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Over the last few weeks, the great chastity pants debate has been raging in the local media. Authorities in Batu, East Java have forced local masseuses to wear padlocked trousers so that they aren't tempted to engage in a few rounds of post massage sexual intercourse with their clients. It has also been suggested that such a system could be introduced in Jakarta along with CCTV cameras in the city's spas and massage parlors.
These developments are depressingly (and hilariously) mediaeval of course. To treat women like animals in this manner is truly the chauvinistic hallmark of an aggressively patriarchal society. Inevitably, as per usual, its prostitutes rather than prostitution that are the target of such regulations. No one is suggesting after all that the male clients also incarcerate their genitalia in this way.
Apart from anything else, if the local authorities in Batu really want to stamp out all sexual activity in massage parlors, then they will also have to supply their female employees with some kind of wild bear face muzzle and also handcuff their hands behind their backs (think about it). Whoever came up with this whole sordid scheme should be awarded a padlock of his own along with a straitjacket to fasten it onto.
Anyway reader, I decided to research this problem in greater detail. After rubbing my hands together with glee so hard that the skin on my palms was starting to chafe, I headed down to the Cleopatra Spa and Massage near my office to see just what filth goes on at these so called, "Family," health centers.
The Cleopatra is popular with local Koreans and Japanese ex-patriots; nations well versed in spa culture. I selected a deal which included a 40 minute massage and use of the facilities. I changed into the supplied blue trunks and kimono and headed up to the spa room.
The Cleopatra really is quite a fancy establishment and its spa room features green tea and mugwort hot pools. The plants in question are contained within porous, hessian bags which float in the water. Presumably green tea is supposed to accrue health benefits to one's exterior as well as interior.
After switching between the hot and cold plunge pools several times I came across another curious spa treatment than I had never seen before. In the corner I found a pool full of fish that Cleopatra patrons are encouraged to immerse their feet in. The fish then nibble away at you removing any dead skin or outbreaks of athlete's foot and generally cleaning the honorable spa guest's feet of grime.
I had a try and, after an initial five seconds of piranha attack paranoia, thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Strange, who would've thought that fish would enjoy human and chips? The sensation of the fish nibbling away at my feet was ticklish and almost erotic in nature (although don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those age of Aquarius, yoghurt weaving beardy weirdies who dream of having sex with dolphins).
After toweling my feet down it was time for the moment of truth. I headed upstairs to the massage cubicles for 40 minutes of serious journalistic research. I lay down on my belly, in my trunks and a young lady called Santi started giving me the full shiatsu treatment. As she hung from the ceiling frame and stomped up and down my spine I was initially unable to ascertain if her pants were securely fastened with solid stainless steel.
I broached the subject with her directly and was informed that the entire establishment was, thankfully, padlock free.
Then the hands-on treatment began and I was massaged with mystical balms and oils from tip to toe. This involved the removal of my regulation blue trunks and the gentle caressing of my lily white lower cheeks. Hmmm. We seemed to be moving further towards the realm of padlockable offence. I would surely soon be flipped over onto my back and offered a banana massage or more.
Sure enough, as the 40 minute time limit hoved into interview, I turned over and was indeed invited to partake in a spot of genital husbandry. A friend of mine once told me that when he was new in town and still had limited Indonesian language skills, he was once asked by a masseuse, "Apakah Om mau di kocok?" which he translated literally as, "Would uncle like to be shuffled?"
Modesty forbids that I continue with my spa memoirs here. Suffice to say though that I told young Santi I was perfectly capable of shuffling myself. She was, however, a very insistent young lady and no amount of padlocking, short of chaining her to the wall, was really going to curb her enthusiasm for her work. I think we had better leave things there for now. Keep shuffling folks.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
More cyber gripes this week. Word spread around my friends like wildfire last Tuesday that the government had remained true to their authoritarian word and blocked access to You Tube and other websites. Now the government has said that they are going to block pornographic websites (or the 0.0001 percent of those naughty sites out there that they are actually able to). The You Tube block however would seem to be in response to the Muslim baiting Dutch movie Fitna, which you can still easily find elsewhere on the web incidentally.
Communications Minister Mohammad Nuh has ordered Indonesian ISPs to block all sites that show the movie. This means that as with the Salman Rushdie Satanic Verses debacle or the Danish cartoon incident, very few protesters will have actually seen what they're protesting about.
The You Tube block has caused me some personal consternation however as I have only recently caught up with the whole You Tube phenomenon and have been really enjoying downloading and saving clips from the site.
You Tube is actually a highly educational site for those that make the effort. In recent months I've watched stuff on science, literature and music along with many great, informative and stimulating interviews with some of the world's top clever clogs. It's like owning your own private TV station, one on which you decide the programming. The contrast with the mind numbing bilge that pours out of terrestrial TV channels couldn't be more marked.
Perhaps though, herein lies a hidden motivation for the block that has been concealed behind the whole Fitna smokescreen. As more and more people log on to fast Internet connections and start to enjoy the whole Web 2.0 experience of video streams, it's going to be harder to stop people from educating themselves. People can now learn about their world via this new technology and can circumnavigate the tranquillizing mores of the local goggle box channels.
The government elites here no doubt have grave misgivings about the Internet in common with authoritarian countries from China to Saudi Arabia. After all, in 1998, the nascent Internet was used by Indonesian students to organize the demonstrations that eventually toppled President Suharto. So in this respect, the current Internet conflagration is right on the front line of the fight for democracy.
The children have to be protected though. It's always the children isn't it? Indonesia's government (and many others around the world) seem to view their whole populations as children to be cosseted and protected by Big Brother and his paternalistic guiding hand. The net must be tamed and brought under control lest it usurp the increasingly invertebrate corporate controlled media and its lies.
Perhaps though it's a good thing that my web surfing proclivities are brought under some manageable control. Like many others I'm sure, I never used to spend so much time on the Web. 10 years ago I used to check my e-mail and that was about it. These days, hours can go by in the blink of my reddening eyes as I'm sucked ever deeper into the smorgasbord of delights on offer on today's Web.
During a recent power cut, my housemates and I were forced to leave our respective rooms and start communicating with one another. Cut off from the intra-passive nihilism of the Internet, we actually talked to each other like human beings! We really should try it more often.
Alas, the social networking and general search-for-a-shag site, My Space, has also been blocked by the guardians of Allah. My housemate was very annoyed by this as he enjoys noising up young ladies over this site and will now have to slake his lusts elsewhere. I tell you, those Dutch filmmakers have got a lot to answer for.
For those of you wishing to beat the blocks, it's easily done thankfully. Simply change the settings on your browser so that it points at a proxy server. Proxies such as Proxylord.com, Hiddencloak.com or Proxify.com should do the trick. But keep it under your hat. Just between me and my seven readers ay?
Sunday, April 06, 2008
The recent news that the viewing of online pornography is to be criminalized in Indonesia hasn't sent me into an immediate panic. This is partly because I would never even countenance the idea of looking at naked ladies on my computer and may God strike me down etc etc. But my lack of concern also reflects the fact that, although pornography has always been illegal here, this fact doesn't seem to have stopped Jakartans from being vociferous consumers of the stuff (if my local DVD vendors are anything to go by).
The online legislation looks like another unenforceable law that will be forgotten about six months hence. However, we'll have to see if any test cases are brought before the courts and some poor lower class Web surfer is led stumbling up to the witness stand with his white stick in order to incur the full penalty of the law.
As Marilyn Monroe once said when she was asked about sex, "I think it's here to stay." That being the case, I think we can safely say that both prostitution and pornography are here to stay too and will continue to persist despite conservative attempts to eradicate them. There are obviously more important things that the government could be doing but I guess that politicians think that they can gain some political traction here by harping on traditional family values in the run-up to the election.
One piece of fallout from this story that particularly tickled me though was the report that Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare, Indonesia's richest man and mudflow maverick Aburizal Bakrie has just launched 12 textbooks on morality for primary and secondary school students. Perhaps he should have a little flick through them himself.
Pornography, of course, is notoriously difficult to define objectively. One man's (or woman's) porn is another man's art or erotica. Indeed there have been modern philosophers, such as French theorist Jacques Lacan, who have argued that human sexuality is essentially pornographic. Human sex cannot be reduced to the simple biological excitation of lower animals because we, uniquely, possess language and thus a whole symbolic order of meaning and imagination. Fantasy is therefore integral to our mental states. Strip away the fantasy and human sexuality disappears with it.
Lacan also argues that although people condemn porn because it objectifies its photographic subjects, our deepest desire is in fact to be objectified; not to possess or fuse with another but to be objectified and used by them. For Lacan, “Desire is the desire of the other." The perfect erotic situation is therefore to be objectified by someone that you also objectify.
But that's enough of the pretentious French theoretical filth. Let's get down to brass tacks (rubs hands with glee). I decided to run a few Web searches in order to get a broad overview (no pun intended) of the whole web porn phenomenon. Typing the words ‘Indonesia’ and ‘Sex’ into Google yielded some interesting results. I was promised ‘Indonesian Girls Nude’ on one link. However, when I eagerly clicked on it I found that the site had been removed. Bah humbug. Had the net enforcers already commenced their porn clampdown? My two word search also returned many serious sites about AIDS and sex workers here. One BBC article from 2003 that arose from my search outlined new laws being considered in Indonesia. These were as follows:
*Couples found living together before marriage would face up to two years in prison
*A man breaking a promise to marry a woman pregnant by him could end up in prison for five years
*Acts of oral sex and sodomy would be punished by between three and 12 years in jail
*Homosexual sex could result in between one and seven years in prison.
Leaving aside for a moment the logical inconsistencies between the third and fourth laws here and the fact that I should be facing a life sentence about now, I was starting to feel that my search for good rocking Indonesian cybersex was beginning to take a rather dour turn. What would happen if these laws were passed? Perhaps the police would declare an amnesty on sex toys like some countries do on firearms every now and again and people could turn in their vibrators, butt plugs and love eggs to the nearest police station.
This endless criminalizing of sexuality is indeed an Asian phenomenon that smacks of social engineering and a Big Brother society. Sexual morality, thanks largely to our religions, is far too often synonymous with sexual repression. Now I'm not advocating topless badminton tournaments at Senayan here, just an honest acknowledgement that sexual feelings are the most natural thing that the human subject can experience.
I think it can be argued that sexual repression leads to more problems than it purports to solve. Think of all those young men with AK-47s in one hand and a copy of the Koran in the other, sublimating their sexual tensions through militarism. Think of so-called, "Honor killings", where a female member of a family is murdered by her own father or brother for alleged sexual indiscretion. Think also of the various scandals involving catholic priests sexually abusing young boys in their charge as a consequence of their enforced celibacy.
Anyway, I thought I would attempt to cheer myself up with one last try. I banged ‘Indonesian Girls’ into Google (no pun intended again) and perused the results. I found a great site called BIG (Beautiful Indonesian Girls) which hopefully won't get blocked as its stars are all fully clothed (although revealing a lot of naked hair, which would no doubt scandalize Abu Bakar Bashir).
They were lovely ladies indeed. Sexist? Well, if appreciating a pretty female face is sexist then I'm a Dutchman.
Gauw tot ziens