Friday, July 03, 2009

All the Fun of the Fair

Last weekend, I embarked on an epic journey across town in order to take in the traditional Jakarta fair which runs every summer. Fairs and carnivals have historically been the time during which the normal social order is anarchically inverted and the great unwashed masses sublimate their social tensions in a riot of music and japery.

In keeping with the subversive spirit of this great tradition, Jakarta Fair offers the city's citizens respite from the intellectual impoverishment of their mall centered lives by giving them... more shopping. That's pretty much all you get at Jakarta Fair aside from a stream of spandex clad Dangdut bimbettes caterwauling at a volume high enough to make the cellulite in their thighs oscillate.

This is where we are though, the shopping terminus of history, where the ultimate life goal is to die the sexiest 110-year-old on the block, doing three hours a day on Stairmaster in a huge mansion in L.A. whilst frantically surfing the net for porn and polishing a vast fleet of sports cars. At least people getting blown up in Iraq have some kind of life story narrative to tell beyond endlessly traversing the tedious, closed Moebius strip of consumer narcissism but don't get me started. Suffice to say that if the self is indeed, in 2009, under siege, then Jakarta Fair's battlements are looking decidedly ragged.

However, if all needs are economic needs, as late capitalism predicates, then I thought that I may as well fill my cup to overflowing down at the JF. The place was positively heaving with Sunday punters as I entered with my wallet bulging. As I strolled around the stalls, the consumer hegemony started to lull me into docility and I even saw a few things worth picking up, aside from the lovely young ladies manning the various stalls of course. Here's my Which guide roundup of the top (and bottom) products making a splash this year (coughs, clears throat).

The Light Bulb Changing Stick

This handy gizmo consists of a long broom handle with some plastic grabbing spokes on the end. Simply push the spokes around the light bulb on your high ceiling and unscrew. Guaranteed to prevent one from falling off the perch as it were (a la Michael Jackson). It's a boon!

The Air-Conditioner Water Heating Unit

This is basically a water tank that hooks up to the external unit of your AC and taps the wasted heat. Commendably green, but would you actually get enough hot water for a nice shower before hell freezes over?

The Aquamaster Water Purification System

After running the gauntlet of electric massage machines that looked like something from Kafka's In the Penal Colony, I came across something called a reverse osmosis drinking water system that was being demonstrated by an enthusiastic chap wolfing down water that had previously been the colour of a muddy swamp. Rather him than me and the real proof of this filtration system's efficacy would surely have involved me checking the condition of his underpants several hours later. Suffice to say that I didn't see him being wheeled out on a stretcher when I left.

The Blood Glucose Test Meter

What with the offspring of the city's well-to-do increasingly looking as if they've been blown up with air hoses, perhaps this little device could prove useful. Those on the Baskin-Robbins diet can pop one of these little gizmos in their pockets and monitor the moment when the cumulative effect of a metric ton of doughnuts pushes them into a hypoglycemic coma.

The Electric Shock Mobile Phone

Obviously you’re more likely to zap yourself with one of these babies than any criminal types. I was thinking though that some kind of Blackberry version of this could be used by psychiatrists as aversion therapy for finger twitching patients who’ve gone too far and crossed over totally into techno-autism land.

Xamthone Mangosteen Skin Juice

This bottle of snake oil hokum promises to do everything from actually repairing your DNA (in fact the human body can already do that) to easing the symptoms of chronic diseases. At Rp.225,000 per small bottle though you could buy several kilos of real Mangosteens, put the skins in a blender and still have change left over for the busway home. Marketing fail.

Magic Power Antiseptic Wet Tissue for Sensitive Area (for Men Only)

Now this one really caught my eye. Billed, "The sweetest thing in a tissue," (they obviously haven't been in my bedroom) the girls dispensing this innovative new product took time out to explain the whole "Magic Power" deal to me. Basically a moist towelette soaked in aftershave, one simply wipes the said item over the family jewels before that intimate moment for some terrific vibes. According to the packet, the Magic Power Wipe will provide you with moisturizer, aromatherapy, longer satisfaction, maximum protection and lubricant sensation gel. According to the leaflets there are no side-effects although I reckon that a nasty dose of something could possibly be one if you believe that soaking your genitals in aftershave is going to afford you, "Maximum protection". I purchased a gross of the things and headed for the door. Hopefully I'll be back next week.