August 14-20, 2009
HISTORIC DAY: The sun shone in London on Aug 8, 1969, so the Beatles could cross the road.
If the Name Doesn’t Fit, Don’t Wear It
IN many parts of the English-speaking world, the trend towards smart-alec placenames is unstoppable. Australia, just for example, has its own Miami, Coral Gables and various other chiefly American imports. Many others, for more obvious historical reasons, stem from the British Isles.
Some commemorate elements of the colonial past; such as, just for example, Moreton Bay in Queensland. The delightful cadence of the Aboriginal name for that expanse of water, Quandamook, is overlooked and indeed ignored officially.
Here in Bali there is surely no need for imported placenames – a point made, with some reasonable force, at a conference reported in a front-page story in last week’s edition – and indeed they are offensive as well as ridiculous. Why would you want to go to Dreamland (far less live there), for example, if instead you could imbue the spirit of Tanah Mimpi?
It’s a bit like architecture, for that matter. If you want to live in some über-modern glass palace, there are plenty of places around the world where you can do so without offending anyone, or at least not too many people.
Last time we looked, Bali had a vibrant and ancient character, tradition and adat (custom) of its own. It’s a great place to live – because of that. People who want to try to replicate the Riviera or other western excrescences should forgo the fake, go away, and find the money to get off on the real thing.
The Bakso Man’s Calling
PRESIDENT Barack Obama’s thoroughly understandable – and laudable – quest for some decent nasi goreng, bakso and mie goreng took a further step forward recently, we hear, when he raised this issue yet again with Indonesia’s ambassador in Washington, Sudjadnan Parnohadiningrat.
It came during a reception at the White House for foreign ambassadors. Presumably none of these dishes were on the hand-round plates prepared for the occasion. This is quite understandable. You might just manage bakso as decorous finger food, if provided with the right linen and you remembered not to gesticulate while armed with a meatball, but both the gorengs would be a hell of a struggle.
No date has yet been set for an official visit to the bakso carts of Menteng – so the story has not advanced on that front, although November when the APEC economic forum is held in Singapore is still everyone’s bet of first choice, from the Istana Negara downwards – but it is abundantly plain that presidential memories of four childhood years in Jakarta (1967-71) will get him back here sooner rather than later.
LAST Sunday was International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. This created much confusion for Hec – such meaningless indulgences always do – because he had so many options to choose from. To his knowledge his genes are indigenous to Saxon, other Germanic and Scandinavian sources, with a teensy bit of Celt thrown in. And who knows what else might be hiding in his DNA?
Given the Germanic sources, chiefly evident from his taste for Jaegermeister and a past fondness for dressing in uniform and singing marching songs, there may even be some migratory Mongol present. He admits to a long affection for the Ordos region in the atlas, empathises with marmot hunters and has held a lifelong interest in the free-flowing principles of the horde, with or without the sturdy ponies. Indeed, one family tale has it that a long-ago maternal ancestor was the derisively disappointed woman who forgot the sensible Mongol maxim (“one steppe at a time”) and foolishly scrawled on Samarkand’s famed city walls the inflammatory graffito “Genghis Khan’t.”
And as for the Celt, well, there was substantial intermingling throughout the 400-year Roman occupation of Britannia, so maybe Hec can trace some indigenous roots back to the Alban hills, where he has spent delightful R&R time (no, that’s not Romulus and Remus, but you get the drift). This may be why he’s always loved toga parties.
He thinks it is time to introduce an International Day of the Mongrel. Then everyone could celebrate all at once.
Some Real History
WE’VE had the moon landing’s 40th anniversary, but a far more significant event of four decades ago was celebrated on August 8: the famous crossing of Abbey Road in London achieved by the Beatles and photographed for the cover of what would be their last album as a group.
Last Saturday, at 11:35am London time, precisely 40 years on from the moment the Abbey Road album cover was photographed, Beatles fans mobbed the most famous pedestrian crossing in Britain to celebrate the iconic image.
Hector wasn’t among them, of course. The weather is so much more pleasant in Bali. But he is among the many thousands who have staged or attempted to stage their own re-enactments of that historic day: a day on which history and the album cover record that it was sunny in London, an event as rare as Mars passing within cooee of Earth.
Some years ago, political business in Queensland, Australia, took Hec frequently to London, where among other things he dined once at the official apartment of someone far more important than himself. The apartment overlooked the Famous Place in otherwise quietly upmarket and inner suburban St John’s Wood. Conversation around the dinner table, fuelled by shared memories of lots of wonderful music and the near narcotic properties of some very passable products of the grape, turned to the feasibility of a late-night re-enactment by the convivial group present, fortuitously numbering four.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, it was winter and the weather was inclement. Also, by the late 1990s, Abbey Road had become as perilous to cross as any of the millions of formerly decorously silent side streets in cities around the world are today, now that the motor vehicle and bad behaviour are ubiquitous.
The Beatles, by the way, made nearly all their records at Abbey Road studios. Today a webcam peers down on the crossing, making virtual visits to Abbey Road possible from anywhere on Earth.
A MAN from a website called professionaltravelguide.com said of Bali on Fox News on August 7, in regard to travel warnings for various countries: “You don’t have to worry. Bali is a Dutch colony.” It was a pre-recorded spot that fills advertising breaks. So we should not be surprised at either inaccuracy or ignorance.
We’re not sure whether he meant that Bali today has many Dutch residents (along with Japanese, Australian, British and American and others), and was using colony in that informal sense of the word. It was, of course, formally and very briefly, a Dutch colony (fully “supervised” only from 1908 until the Japanese, for their own unsuccessful imperial reasons, threw them out in 1942).
Dutch colonialism was never very successful. But they did leave Indonesia with a lovely legacy of cakes and a national taste for sweet things that is a substantial benefit for everyone who now lives in Bali. The Dutch included.
Well, She Would, Wouldn’t She?
LET’S hear it for Strawberry, a cockatoo from Papua New Guinea who finished third in a six-week stock investment contest organised by the Seoul Stock Exchange. Strawberry – her name in her own language is Ddalgi, which is the sort of sound Hec is apt to utter on a good day – won a 13.7-percent gain on her investments just by using her beak to point at good buys.
The average performance by human investors was minus 4.6 percent.
World’s Best Spot, Baaa None
WE read with interest an article in the Jakarta Globe recently – in the Life & Times section, always a must-read – in which Doris Roberts, the actress who played Raymond’s mother in that American comedic family soap Everyone Loves Raymond, says this about New Zealand, where she recently spent four months shooting Aliens in the Attic (the movie, not actual space invaders, and certainly not ET):
“It’s beautiful there, but there is nothing to do. There are 80 million sheep and four million people for the entire country.”