Amazing Grace and the Balinese Gigolos

The Balinese authorities have got it all wrong where it comes to the hooha over the news documentary Cowboys in Paradise, about the Kuta Cowboys, gigolos selling their services to foreign women tourists.

Instead of getting angry with Singapore-based director Amit Virmani for allegedly besmirching the island’s reputation, they should instead thank Amit for restoring their sense of sight. If you’ve been to Bali, you have to be blind, oblivious or extremely naive not to notice the beach boys trying to solicit business. This is apparent to any tourist, let alone any long time visitor to Bali, yet has been occluded from the attention of the Balinese authorities.

Now, all of a sudden the Balinese authorities are awakened to the fact that there are “dark skinned men with good bodies” chatting up women and providing them with sexual favors, often for an exchange of money. I once was blind, but now can see...Amazing Grace! Now, isn’t that something to be thankful for rather than getting their G-strings in a knot?

Here’s a trailer of the documentary on YouTube:

Here’s The Jakarta Globe story:

Offended Bali Officials Investigating Director Of Controversial ‘Gigolo’ Documentary

Kuta. Stung by the new documentary “Cowboys in Paradise,” which examines the phenomenon of “Kuta Cowboys” — gigolos working Bali’s beaches and bars — Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika said on Tuesday that he would investigate whether the director had the necessary permits to film on the island.

The former Bali Police chief expressed disappointment at the documentary, which he claimed only focused on the negative side of the Island of the Gods.

“I thank Kuta’s residents who helped conduct raids against those they suspect of being gigolos,” Made Mangku said, referring to the questioning of 28 well-built men on the beach on Monday. “The main thing is, do not use violence.”

News of the documentary has spread across Web sites nationwide, and Bali Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Gde Sugianyar Dwi Putra confirmed that Bali Police were investigating it.

The film, completed last year after two years in production, premiered at the DMZ Documentary Film Festival in South Korea last Wednesday.

“We are still collecting some information because we have only seen part of the movie from YouTube. We haven’t seen the whole movie yet,” Sugianyar said, adding that police would coordinate with the supervisory body that issued filmmaking permits.

The film — which documents the relationships between foreign female tourists and male prostitutes, the “Kuta Cowboys” of the title — immediately touched a raw nerve, with Kuta Beach task force members raiding the beach.

via Offended Bali Officials Investigating Director Of Controversial ‘Gigolo’ Documentary – The Jakarta Globe.

BCA statement on missing funds a hoax?

It is incredible when you think about it: BCA, one of the largest banks in the country beset with electronic theft at its ATMs in Bali and God-knows where and the bank, after more than a day, has yet to issue any formal statement about it.

Is BCA concerned? Is anyone taking this seriously? Will other customers be affected? Is their money safe? Is it true that BCA will reimburse all the money lost? What about the bank official who told a Twitterer that the problem was isolated to only those who use online banking? Is the problem in Bali only or is it prevalent in other areas as well. What should customers do to have peace of mind?

These are the questions that must be coursing through the minds of BCA customers (including Unspun who’s put his meagre life savings in the bank and trusted them to provide me with some security). But so far BCA, has officially kept quiet. Their Wadirut did speak to but it was merely to express his suspicion that the reports went first to the police rather than to them and it wasn’t clear whether it was the bank’s official stance. The bank has been weirdly silent, creating an information vacuum around the case.

The problem with information vacuums have a way of encouraging speculation and hoaxes and this “statement” (below) putatively from BCA and signed by someone at Risk Management has been making the rounds in the BB Messenger circuit.

Unspun’s sources say that it is a hoax but BCA higher ups have been saying that its “unofficial” when asked about it (why call it unofficial if its a downright hoax is a mystery to Unspun). The sources also say that the higher ups seem quite unperturbed by all the fuss around the fraud cases and dismissed this statement as a “black campaign” against them.

This is a bad sign for BCA. It suggests that the powers that be may not quite be in touch with the reality out there and instead of treating rumors, hoaxes and misinformation as serious matters that may impact their bottom line and reputation, they have succumbed to denial and a feeling of “impunity” – the we-are-so-big-nothing-can-hurt-us attitude.

But the incident is unfolding. Would it all blow over and BCA and its customers live happily forever, or will it all turn into a nightmare of crisis-like proportions? Time will tell.

The hoax BCA statement making the rounds on BB Messenger:


Memang benar, ada kasus atm di bali dan sekarang mulai merambah ke jakarta.

yang di bali, si pelaku memasang alatnya di hard rock. Jd nsb bca yang
pernah datang ambil atm di hard rock taun lalu, banyak yang kena.

Untuk pelaku yang di jakarta, skrg dah tertangkap dan sedang menjalani proses sidang.

Pelakunya dicurigai sindikat internasional.

Mreka semacam menghacker data kita.

Mreka biasanya beroperasi di ATM yang switching, permata (krn gak ada kamera).

Skrg BCA sudah melakukan control pengaman lebih ketat lagi. (udah nyampe direksi)

Untuk nasabah BCA di bali diwajibkan ganti kartu ATM.

Dan untuk nasabah BCA lainnya dianjurkan untuk ganti PIN atm.

Wistina Gita Utami

| PT. Bank Central Asia, Tbk. | Risk Management  | Loan Portfolio Monitoring and Analysis Unit |

for earlier development read this

Oh, and yes, apparently BCA has appointed a PR firm to handle the situation but its one of those firms with an initial for a name and nobody Unspun knows has heard of it, except for one friend who says that they usually handle BCA’s Public Service Ads. Rather strange credentials to be handling a crisis-like situation.

Potential crisis: How will BCA cope with reports about missing funds?

Update 2pm: 2 more local banks named as suffering from the same problem of disappearing funds on Twitter. A Twitterer quotes a BCA officer as saying that the problem is mainly confined to customers who use internet or online banking. Classic uncontrolled communications among front-line staff in crisis-like situations.

Unspun‘s alter ego penned some thoughts about how BCA has been handling the crisis-like situation it is facing right now as reports of missing funds from personal accounts spread in Indonesia in Talking Points.

Join the conversation about whether BCA’s handling of the situation so far and what it needs to do to manage this crisis-like situation here.

Revver’s Starr on FLOW, Bali

Maverick Network caught up with Steven Starr the co-founder of Revver last week found out what he has been up to in Bali and Jakarta, his impressions from a dinner with Indonesia’s top bloggers and web start-up entrepreneurs and his desire to come to Pesta Blogger 2009.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Revver’s Starr on FLOW, Bali“, posted with vodpod

The ugly “girls” of the Bali Blogging Community

After all the hard traveling and visiting the tourist sites in bali the five foreign bloggers were treated to a night of camaraderie and madcap fun by the Bali Blogging community last night. But did they in their wildest dreams (or nightmares) every imagined that they would be confronted by The Joker in Balinese traditional costume?

Mr Brown has the incriminating video:

The bloggers have also arrived in Jogja and you can follow the progress of their trips on Twitter

Mark Tafoya

Mr Brown

Another Explosion in Bali

Malaysian Michael Chick was in Bali today when the explosion occurred at about 3pm. This is his first hand account and the photos he took. His report was apparently picked up by Channel News Asia. He sent Unspun this riveting account.

Explosion in Bali

written by Michael Chick

9th July 4pm 2008

An explosion shook the earth not more than 300meters from Planet Hollywood in Bali today. shattered glass splinters peppered the street and the entire parking area just in front of no:18, jalan Setia Budi, in Kuta, Bali Today. 4 Police CSI vans were rushed to the scene. Fearing it was another terrorist attack on peaceful Bali again.

The explosion took out the entire front glass facade of this shoplot next to the busy street feeding traffic to the favourite destination of Kuta. In fact, this is not more than 1 km away from Ground Zero during the horrible Bali Bombing. (The Malaysian Bomb Maker, Azahari Husin, has been duly executed)

However, today’s explosion was merely a domestic mishap caused by a faulty gas valve on a gas tank. There were no fatalities, and only a few innocent bystanders were bruised by the showering glass which spewed onto the streets in front.

The Police have still barricaded the area, and is off limits to the public, and even to members of the press. Bali does not need any further bad publicity. It is important that the Media portrays this right. Channel NewsAsia, of Singapore carried this story at 5pm today. MediaCorp will run its publication in its newspapers tomorrow (Sat).

It is an unfortunate event. But fortunate, in the sense that no one really got too severely injured. The handful who were, have been whisked to the hearby Sanglah Hospital.

Michael Chick is researching domestic poverty issues, in tandem with the Aids Research Council in Bali.

Poems from Bali to Burma

Unspun enjoyed himself thoroughly at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival over the past week. He also had a great time moderating a session on Pamphlet Poetry featuring three poets: Ed Maranan from the Philippines, Cyril Wong from Singapore and Abe Barreto Soares from East Timor.


(From left: Unspun’s alter ego, Ed Maranan, Cyril Wong and Abe Soares. Photo taken by Unspun’s partner, who did not laugh at him as he was struggling to sound intelligent in front of smarter people)

Since the subject was Pamphlet Poetry and whether poetry is an art form could influence politics Unspun felt it was appropriate that the three poets started off the session by what they had to say about the Burmese situation through their poetry. E Responded with a Haiku, Cyril responded by modifying a poem of his and Abe responded with one of his poems (the man writes in Tetum, English, Portuguese and Indonesian and also sings – amazing fellow!)

This is their contribution (Only Cyril has responded so far as Ed and Abe are still traveling – Unspun will post their poems when they send it through).

Practical Aim
by Cyril Wong

After great pain, what would the body
learn that it does not already know

of relief? When that fire-truck has raged
past, what do I rediscover about silence

except that I would always miss it?
Do trees mind if it is the same wind

that passes through their heads everyday?
After the mall is completed, must we

remember the field it now inhabits
where we raced each other as children?

If my lover forgets to wake me with a kiss
a second time this week, should I worry?

Does solitude offer strength over time, or
is denial of it the only practical aim?

After the earthquake, would it matter
if no one saw two dogs from different

families approaching each other
without suspicion, then moving apart?

As the workers wash their faces hidden
by helmets that beam back the sun,

should they care about the new building
behind them beyond a fear of it falling?

If my mother cannot see how else to be
happy, is it enough that she may lie

in bed, convinced God watches her sleep?
What happens after the monks stop flowing

like a river along the wound that is Burma?
After deep loss, what does the heart

learn that it has not already understood
about regret? When all light finally

forsakes a room, do we take the time
to interrogate the dark, and to what end?

Almost exposed!

Strange things happen, and of all people Unspun‘s been invited to moderate a session on Pamphlet Poetry at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, that opens this Tuesday and goes on till Monday week.For a moment Unspun was worried that the organizers had realized that Unspun was barely literate, let alone understand poetry beyond Walter de La Mare’s Daffodils which he read back in school, or politics apres Harold Laski. The source of the panic was that the festival’s website name of another moderator for the Pamphlet Poetry session.

“Ha!” thought Unspun, “found out!” It will be tar and feathers for the imposter rather than moderating then. So worriedly Unspun sms’d the organizer Janet de Neefe, who said the entry was a mistake and Unspun was indeed moderating. “Whew!”

Since Unspun will be there, hope you guys can come to the session on Sunday between 1 and 2pm at The Left Bank Lounge. Here’s the blurb from the website:

Meet the Poets: Pamphlet Poetry
Is poetry as effective as other artistic forms in challenging governments and society, questioning the status quo and empowering the disenfranchised? Poets from Singapore, East Timor, Australia and the Philippines discuss poetry as a means of social activism. Featuring: Ed Maranan, Cyril Wong, Abe Barreto Soares.

Unspun‘s had exchanges online with these poets and thinks their brilliance will overshadow Unspun‘s ill-informed views about poems and politics. So come along and have a good time if you’re in Ubud (after visiting Ibu Oka’s, that is!)

clipped from
Bringing multicultural readers, writers together
The Jakarta Post, JakartaFor the fourth time, Bali will be the venue of the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (UWRF) from Sept. 25 to 30. Under the topic Sekala-Niskala (The Seen & The Unseen) — a Balinese belief that we live in a seen (conscious) and unseen (unconscious) world at the same time — the festival will encompass themes of religion, mysticism and modernity. It will host over 80 internationally renowned writers, poets, playwrights, filmmakers and performers from 18 countries. Among theses are famous figures like Indonesian seven-novel author Ahmad Tohari, Briton Patrick Gale, Tan Twan Eng from Malaysia and Shashi Tharoor, who was India’s candidate to succeed Kofi Annan in 2006.

  blog it