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Egg Incorporated

We’ve spilled lots of ink in these pages about new Sumatran restaurants like Minang Asli and Upi Jaya that have changed our way of thinking about Indonesian food, endearing us to jackfruit curries, lontong rice cubes, and sludgy beef rendangs cooked in thick coconut milk. Now Java—the commercial hub of the 18,000 island Indonesian archipelago—strikes back. Just down the block from Minang Asli on Elmhurst’s exploding Whitney Avenue dining strip, Mie Jakarta (“Jakarta Noodles”) appeared in the space vacated by Padang Raya, a Sumatran establishment. Score one for Java! Painted several shades of pink and offering only a handful of tables, this small café emulates a warung—a hawker stall specializing in one or two dishes done to perfection. Like the name says, Mie Jakarta’s specialty is noodles.

“This is just blue-collar food,” the waiter said with some regret, shaking his black locks as he set down a plate of sio may ($6.50). While we had expected something that resembled the shrimp-stuffed dumplings of China and Japan, what we discovered provided a startling contrast: rice-noodle wads like birthday-package bows cloaked in a shoe-brown peanut sauce veined with ebony palm sugar, making an inspired color combination. The effect on us was instantaneous. “Bring us more blue-collar food,” we chortled fraternally.

Hopefully, you’ll approve of the peanut sauce, because you’re going to see it again and again. The rough-textured goo also lands on the collection of six grilled chicken satays ($6) and on gado-gado, a composed salad originated by the Betawi, as the indigenous inhabitants of the Jakarta area are called. Next to satays, gado-gado is probably Indonesia’s most famous dish, and it has been embraced throughout the island chain and in neighboring Malaysia. Mie Jakarta’s version is more rudimentary than the one found at New York’s Malaysian cafes, consisting mainly of shredded lettuce, bean sprouts, bean curd, a boiled egg, and decorative shrimp crackers—but what could be more perfect? The same sauce recurs on batagor, spongy kingfish cakes broken into pieces and tossed into a similar salad. Batagor features a boiled egg, too, the one item incorporated into almost anything at Mie Jakarta.

The most spectacular offering is ayam rica ($6.50), a quarter fried chicken paved with a coarse red coating that, upon closer inspection, turns out to be mainly pickled chiles. A certain amount of dexterity is required to pick up the bird and take a bite that includes the optimal proportion of skin, flesh, and hot peppers. A porgy treated the same way proves a bit disappointing—the diminutive fish is mainly skin and bones. On the other hand, it seems like just the kind of fish you’d encounter in an actual Jakarta hawker stall.

The heart of the menu, though, is a killer series of chicken noodle soups. The simplest (mie ayam Jakarta, $4) features small chicken tidbits in a tasty broth with an elusive trace of sweetness. A legacy of Dutch colonialism, the egg noodles are dead ringers for the Pennsylvania Dutch noodles you find in the supermarket. The most complex soup (mie ayam komplit, $5.50) supplements the noodles with wontons and “meatballs”—two fish balls and two beef balls that are so rubbery they seem like they would bounce if you dropped them. We tried and they bounced. Play ball!

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Report: U.S. Should Pay for Genocide in East Timor

WASHINGTON, D.C.–A report to be presented to the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anan today charges that Indonesia, through its military, sought to exterminate the people of East Timor through a genocidal campaign of deliberate starvation. The extermination in East Timor was carried out from 1975 through 1999, years in which Indonesia occupied its island neighbor. The U.S. provided military assistance to Indonesia during that period.

The Australian newspaper got a copy of the 2,500-page report, which it says had been suppressed by the East Timorese government for several months. The report, by the Commission for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation, is based on interviews with nearly 8,000 witnesses. The commission’s steering committee includes delegates from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Some 180,000 East Timor civilians–about a third of the nation’s population before the invasion–were killed by the occupying forces, reports the Australian. Ninety percent of these deaths were due to hunger and illness. The extermination was carried out in part by the use of napalm and chemical weapons, the investigation commission, financed by international donors, said. Some victims were burned or buried while still alive. Others were sexually mutilated.

The report demands reparations from Indonesia, but also from members of the U.N. Security Council who provided military support to Indonesia during the occupation. In addition to the U.S., that list includes Britain. So far the only people punished for the East Timor atrocities are a handful of Indonesian soldiers.

The Indonesian security forces “consciously decided to use starvation of East Timorese civilians as a weapon of war,” the Australian quotes the report as saying. “The intentional imposition of conditions of life which could not sustain tens of thousands of East Timorese civilians amounted to extermination as a crime against humanity committed against the East Timorese population.”

And who’s left to blame? “The violations were committed in execution of a systematic plan approved, conducted, and controlled by Indonesian military commanders at the highest level,” the report says. Some of those commanders, the report suggests, are still in power.

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Futurama

The Voice spoke to preeminent New York psychic Terry Iacuzzo, whose memoir Small Mediums at Large (Putnam, 368 pp., $22.95) is about LSD, evil spells, and “inner truth.”

To what do you attribute your abilities as a psychic? It’s part genetic and part because I started reading at a young age. Lots of people have intuition. It’s like piano playing. But then some of us play at Carnegie Hall.

Do your visions extend to world events? I’m more interested in the individual, but of course I can see what’s going to happen in the world—I’m psychic. A couple weeks ago I was in a luncheonette on Prince Street—I have a feeling you live there, do you? On Mott or Elizabeth? . . . Anyway, this woman was standing next to me, and I heard her say, “I can’t wait to get out of here! I’m going to Indonesia over Christmas with my family.” And I looked at her, and I knew she wasn’t coming back. But I couldn’t walk up to a stranger and say, “Excuse me—don’t go!”

What responsibility do you feel to warn and instruct people? I try to really focus on my role in the human race. I’ve always been 100 percent alive, maybe 1,000 percent alive. But people are getting very mediocre. Where are those great New York characters? Everyone is dressed! Everyone is working so hard! I am a cheerleader for “Let’s go! Let’s get up and live!”

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Indonesian Army Said to Block Tsunami Aid

WASHINGTON, D.C.—In the last few days there have been accusations that the Indonesian military has used the tsunami disaster as a means to further crush a long-running rebellion, denying food and aid to rebel groups. The devastated Aceh province is under virtual martial law.

Aceh is the center of the struggle, dating back to the 1970s, by local groups who want independence from Indonesia. The region, an ancient kingdom which once included much of Malaysia, actually predates Indonesia; after the struggle against the Dutch colonialists following World War II, Aceh came together with the other islands that make up Indonesia, with the understanding that it would keep considerable autonomy. But the central government wasted no time in encroaching on Aceh. Jakarta wants to hold on because the region is so rich in natural resources, especially oil and gas.

The financial linchpin of the Aceh province is Exxon Mobil. Its large liquefied-natural-gas plant there is the base of the region’s economy and provides gas to customers throughout Asia.

Now the region has been plunged into chaos. Allan Nairn, the American activist and journalist who has been active in the independence struggle in East Timor and elsewhere in Indonesia, this week told Seven Oaks, a magazine based in British Columbia, that the Indonesian military, which is supposedly doling out aid to devastated communities, is in fact using the earthquake as a pretext for attacking villages away from the coast in East and North Aceh.

“The military is also impeding the flow of aid,” said Nairn. “They’ve commandeered a hangar at the Banda Aceh airport, where they are taking control of internationally shipped-in supplies. We just got a report that the distribution of supplies is being done in some towns and villages only to people who hold the ‘red and white,’ which is a special ID card issued to Acehnese by the Indonesian police. You have to go to a police station to get one of these ID cards, and it is only issued to people who the police certify as not being opponents of the army, not being critics of the government. Of course many people are afraid to go and apply for such a card.

“There’s been a tremendous outpouring from the
public; all over the world people are giving donations,” Nairn continued. “But most of these donations are being channeled through the U.N.agencies or through the big mainstream charities. There’s a major problem. Those agencies and charities all have contracts with the Indonesian government, contracts which oblige them to either channel funds through the government or work in concert with the government, which means that government officials and army officers can steal the aid, and there are already indications that this is happening. And even that aid which is not stolen may be used in a way to consolidate military control over the population.”

For Exxon Mobil, the tsunami wasn’t a great hindrance to operations. The company reported only a “minor disruption.” More generally, times are good. Company revenue for the first nine months of 2004 stood at $214.67 billion, up from $180.79 billion a year ago. Profits were up 39 percent.

After the disaster, Exxon Mobil announced that, together with its employees, it would be making a $5 million donation to help tsunami victims.

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Standing Up to the Swoosh

Jim Keady admits that the moment came when even he had to wonder. It was a bit more than a month ago, and he was lying on a reedy mat on the bumpy, shelf-papered floor of a tiny, dank cement flat in slummy Tangerang, an industrial suburb of Jakarta. His head was throbbing from a headache, and he felt so faint from hunger that the 6-4 former soccer pro was having trouble “lifting a water bottle to my mouth without it shaking violently.” The absurdity of it is that Keady’s sufferings were self-imposed: the result of his having volunteered to live for a month on the typical wages—about $1.20 a day—of an Indonesian factory worker sewing shoes for Nike.

Keady shook off the doubts, making it through the day and, ultimately, the month—though he lost 25 pounds. The experience confirmed, he says, that “Nike is paying a starvation wage in Indonesia. I know—I starved on it.” Still, he says with utter conviction, “It was worth it.”

Indeed, Keady’s Tangerang travail was just the latest stage for the ex-St. John’s goalkeeper coach in what has become a personal crusade to expose the exploitation in Nike’s third-world subcontracting factories—which number more than 700 and employ more than half a million people, including 110,000 in Indonesia. It’s a cause that has drawn increasing numbers of Americans in the last five years, as revelations about dreadful sweatshop conditions in overseas factories have led to an international campaign and protests on scores of college campuses nationwide. In 1998, even Nike chief executive Phil Knight conceded that “the Nike product has become synonymous with slave wages, forced overtime, and arbitrary abuse.” But even as the anti-sweatshop movement has blossomed, Keady’s career has withered. Beyond the month of precipitous weight loss, dull headaches, and fast-food longings, Keady’s activism has cost him two jobs and, apparently, a promising future in his lifelong love, soccer.

For Keady, the trouble began with a research paper. Three years ago he was studying for a master’s degree in theology at St. John’s, and working with the goalkeepers there. It was a plum post for the then 26-year-old Keady, who, after a lifetime of playing soccer, had risen to backup goalie for the North Jersey Imperials, a minor-league professional squad. A job with the defending national champion Red Storm, even as a part-time graduate assistant in the soccer department, held out the possibility of a coaching career.

Then, in a class on Catholic social teaching, Keady’s professor suggested that the young jock explore the connection between moral theology and sports, and Keady settled on the issue of Nike’s labor practices. “I didn’t know that this would lead to any sort of activism,” he says. “I was just looking for a good paper topic.” But what Keady learned about Nike’s now notorious history of child labor (in 1996, eight-year-olds were found making Nike soccer balls in Pakistan), wretched working conditions (in 1997, overworked Vietnamese women were found to have been exposed to toxic chemicals at 177 times legal levels), and miserable pay (for years, Nike contractors even fought for exemptions from Indonesia’s paltry mini-mum wages) appalled him. He poured himself into his research (and eventually earned an A in the class).

It so happened that St. John’s was then negotiating with Nike over a multimillion-dollar sponsorship deal, and for Keady, what had been an intellectual issue suddenly became all too practical. “As a coach, I would’ve had to wear the equipment—shoes, socks, T-shirts, sweats, everything.” Keady decided he couldn’t. He started contacting university officials, writing for the campus press, and talking up the issue with the soccer team.

When Keady made his stance public, he kicked off what his theology professor, the Reverend Paul Surlis, calls “the most vigorously argued debate I have seen in all the 25 years I have been at St. John’s.” And in certain quarters, namely the administration and athletic department, that controversy was not happily received. Weeks of pressure ensued, Keady says, culminating in an ultimatum. “I was told I would have to wear Nike clothes and drop the issue or resign.”

The order stunned him. “I couldn’t believe I was being forced to make that decision. But I felt like I didn’t want to be a billboard for a company that was reaping profits on the backs of the poor. I knew what had to be done.” In June of 1998, he quit.

That seemingly simple act has launched Keady on “an incredible journey.” He has been lionized in print and on campuses, and this month played a prominent role in Olympics protests in Sydney. But his newfound passion for social justice seems to have exiled him from the two worlds he knew best: Catholic education and soccer. This spring he wore out his welcome at St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens—where he had taught religion since leaving St. John’s—after un- ceasingly campaigning, in class and out, against a slew of social ills (he took his students to a march in midtown Manhattan). He says he has been blackballed in the soccer world, and hasn’t been able to get a tryout with his old team. And two weeks ago a federal judge threw out an $11 million lawsuit Keady filed last year against Nike and St. John’s.

[

The setbacks seem only to have stoked Keady’s fire. After Nike brushed off his offer to work in one of its factories for six months, he and a compatriot, Leslie Kretzu, made their own way to Tangerang, and scraped by on 325,000 rupiah for the month of August, enduring the anxiety of choosing toiletries or food, a typical factory worker’s cement box, and “rats and cockroaches like I’ve never seen.” The move impressed even Keady’s pals, a number of whom initially thought his activism was, in a word, “crazy.”

Ad exec Mike Pierantozzi accompanied Keady to Indonesia to film his college buddy, though he was “kind of on the fence on the issue—I’m not an activist.” But when three young women came to Keady’s room to detail humiliating treatment and 15-hour days at their Adidas factory, Pierantozzi got a shock: “It turned out these women had made the $80 sneakers I was wearing. The girl was actually showing me the place where she’d stitched the uppers!” The moment jolted Pierantozzi out of “my typical American obtuseness about the origins of our products.” Keady, notes Pierantozzi with a laugh, was “wearing sandals. You know, the whole Jesus thing.”

Keady certainly has a sense of mission. Father Surlis, Keady’s prof, avers, “A word comes up with Jim—the word is prophetic. His is an effort to practice genuine religion.” Indeed, Keady laces his conversation with references to Gandhi, King, and moral theology, and is so pure he won’t even wear a swoosh-stamped ID badge when visiting Nike headquarters. Or as Surlis puts it, “He can be a bit in-your-face at times.”

Where his supporters see passion, Nike detects prejudice. In an online response to Keady’s campaign, the company questions his “sincerity and credibility,” saying that Keady went to Indonesia to “bolster his profile, further his existing lawsuit against Nike, and generate interest in a book he is writing.” And the company says Keady “trivialized and demeaned the lives of Indonesians who work in factories. . . . Given his privileged, Western perspective, Mr. Keady does not understand . . . the value and importance of a job . . . in Indonesia.”

At least the same cannot be said of Julianto, a union organizer who for the last three years worked as a hot-press operator for a Nike subcontractor in Serang. Speaking through an interpreter, the 23-year-old described how, after helping to lead a massive protest at his plant last December, he was hauled into a manager’s office, and with an Indonesian soldier standing by, was told to back off—or risk a visit by hired thugs. That claim received a measure of support last month when Community Aid Abroad-Oxfam Australia issued a report documenting claims of intimidation and harassment of union workers in Nike’s Indonesian factories. Julianto has since quit to organize full-time, and met Keady last month. He says he admires Keady’s campaign, though his sports idol remains Michael Jordan.

Nike icon Jordan remains an outsized figure for anti-sweatshop activists too, along with brandmate superheroes Tiger Woods and Mia Hamm, but as a target for conversion—and a source of disappointment. At the Al- ternative Opening Ceremony demo in Sydney, Keady urged Olympic athletes to visit Indonesia. He had little luck, though activists did engage Olympic stars when Tiffeny Milbrett and Brandi Chastain of the U.S. soccer team wandered into an anti-globalization protest in Melbourne. Alas, Milbrett used the occasion to defend Nike. The next week Sports Illustrated helpfully suggested that “the story of Milbrett . . . would make for a dynamite shoe commercial.”

The great Jordan famously promised to investigate Nike’s factories when sweatshop conditions made headlines in 1996. He has not been heard from on the issue since, and Temple basketball coach John Chaney may have spoken for many in the sports world when he was asked about Jordan’s silence: “Why should he stick his neck out and risk his endorsement deals? You got a fucking problem with Michael making money? Michael should pick up every fucking dollar possible.”

Given that context, Keady’s refusenik stance can seem miraculous. Among American athletes, only Milbrett’s teammate Julie Foudy has taken anything like a public stand against multinational exploitation (in 1997, the Reebok star insisted on inspecting overseas soccer ball plants herself before OK’ing an endorsement deal). “It’s a credit to Jim as a person to risk being scorned in the soccer community,” says Keady’s former Imperials teammate Tim Mulqueen, now a coach with Major League Soccer’s Kansas City Wizards. “Especially in our profession, which is governed by these large sports companies.”

[

Keady has had an impact. Following his campaign at St. John’s, the university formed a task force on global sweatshops and helped establish two industry watchdogs, the Global Alliance for Workers and Communities and the Fair Labor Association. Activists, however, say those groups are tainted by industry sponsorship (Nike has pledged $7.7 million to the Global Alliance over five years). Prompted by students, more than 50 universities have joined the independent Workers Rights Consortium instead. But this spring, Nike bolted from negotiations over multimillion-dollar deals with Brown and Michigan when those schools joined the WRC. And Phil Knight personally pulled a $30 million donation to his alma mater and WRC-signee, Oregon, fulminating that “the university inserted itself into the new global economy, where I make my living.”

Of course, Keady, now without a teaching or coaching job, will have to face the question of making his living when he comes home this week. That predicament, says Doug Beaumont, who sometimes roomed with Keady on St. John’s road trips, is sad—but also admirable: “To lose your job and have people blackball you, but to stand up for your beliefs, is incredible.” For his part, Keady seems undaunted by unemployment. Last week in Indonesia he was trying to cobble together an activist speaking tour upon his return. In the end, Keady allows that he sorely misses playing and coaching, but he’s come around to seeing it this way: “The world is a whole lot bigger than soccer.”


Responding to Keady

St. John’s University has long maintained that it did not force Jim Keady to leave his job at the school for refusing to wear Nike gear, and it cites approvingly a federal judge’s finding two weeks ago—in dismissing a lawsuit Keady filed last year—that Keady resigned his job “on his own accord, as ‘a troubling matter of conscience.’ ” Keady says he’ll appeal the dismissal. St. John’s also says it is committed to combating sweatshops. The Reverend James J. Maher, chair of the university’s Code of Conduct Task Force, says that St. John’s is now contributing more money than any other college to both the Global Alliance for Workers and Communities and the Fair Labor Association, groups that are supposed to monitor labor conditions in third-world factories. And he says that he has been “truly impressed by steps that Nike has taken” to improve conditions for its workers.

Indeed, Nike says that Jim Keady and other activists “have certainly chosen the right issue but are targeting the wrong company.” According to Vada Manager, Nike’s director of global-issues management, “We have made considerable improvements in the way we do business in the world.” In Vietnam, for example, the company allowed an independent health and safety monitor into the factory where carcinogens had been found at 177 percent of legal levels, and he reported “important improvements.” In Indonesia, Nike says it has boosted entry-level wages above the country’s minimum, and has raised the age minimums for apparel workers to 16 years and for footwear workers to 18 years. The company helped found both the Global Alliance and the Fair Labor Association. As for Keady’s Indonesia trip, Nike is less than impressed. In an online response, the company argues that “Keady does not understand Nike’s global manufacturing processes, nor has he made an effort to do so. His perspective amounts to self-fulfilling conclusions.”

St. Francis Preparatory School would not comment on Keady, though it cited failures to carry out teaching duties and violations of school policy in dismissing him.

—A.H.

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Roots Music Ping Pong

Alongside the expected Built To Spills, Stereolabs and Sleater-Kinneys, there were two surprises atop the college radio charts this year: a Japanese lady singing about clouds and an Athens, Georgia, band transformed by Indonesia. Neither is exceptionally groundbreaking, I’m interested to note, just further evidence of an increasing thirst for global sounds with a bohemian pedigree. It was romance enough, in the 1980s, for college DJs to see that underground sensibilities had spread to Kansas or Arizona. New Zealand noise-pop, goth tribal sounds and a few Camper Van Beethoven instrumentals were about as exotic as things got. But in the 1990s, punk’s legacy has come to seem provincial, in need of cultural transfusions from far corners—proof for weirdos that we are the world, or at least could be.

Still, Takako Minekawa and Macha are firmly in the indie tradition. Neither could have existed without the Velvet Underground. (Minekawa’s new album even generates some do-do-do‘s, though she’s not the colored girl Lou Reed had in mind.) And both cross a threshold that always ensures collegiate forbearance: Operating rough-and-tumble, they do something odd and make the cake rise in the oven. Macha run around onstage, as at Irving Plaza last Tuesday, switching instruments wildly to fashion grandiose statements that might combine a rock rhythm section with zither, vibraphone, ’70s keyboards and a taped re-creation of an Indonesian street parade. Minekawa sings in Japanese, English, French and all-world vocalese over tracks that blend serene minimalism (one samples its beat from a ping-pong rally) with perky good humor. These are Grade A routines, DIY-certified.

Though early copies of Macha included field recordings that Joshua McKay and Kai Riedl made during a trip to Southeast Asia, the band doesn’t claim to have properly studied gamelan: They just sift its vibes, the way Girls Against Boys get off on blaxploitation, and are good enough musicians to integrate those tonalities into their rock moves. Indie rockers have trended steadily toward overt droning anyway, with VU’s “What Goes On” evolving into Sonic Youth and beyond. So Macha’s chimes and percussed strings are an affectation college-radio ears are prepared to welcome, and novel enough to offset some of the band’s cornier buildups. This August’s See It Another Way adds former Edie Brickell sideman Wes Martin, and polishes the sound toward a mannered new wave exoticism. It would be easy to dismiss them: The East has taken in plenty of rockers and fans before. But live they seemed less like dilettantes than jugglers, improbably keeping a wealth of influences from overwhelming them.

Multi-instrumentalist Takako Minekawa is both less and more grounded, a well-connected stylistic butterfly who heretofore has followed each album with a remix disc employing indie, club, and experimental musicians: Pulsars, Kid Loco, Oval, etc. The just-out Fun9 comes remixed, featuring witty grooves by boyfriend Cornelius (the best offered in a second, French version), a less impressive trio with U.S. hipsters DJ Me DJ You, and Minekawa’s own watery meditations, like “Gently Waves” and “Flow in a Tide.” I prefer her air meditation and CMJ No. 1 Cloudy Cloud Calculator, which includes the layered breaths and plunking chimes of “Phonobaloon Song” and “Cat House,” where she plays an obedient feline—who’s read Deleuze. Minekawa too might be written off, as terminally cute or an aural fashion victim, but there’s a consistency to her idiosyncrasies. She joins nature whimsy, electro-minimalism, and panglobal chattiness. It works for her.

Some say the world will end in fire; some say it’ll just turn into one big shopping mall. But if the global economy has littered remote backwaters with McDonald’s and shoot-’em-up flicks, it’s also spread Velvets albums, as part of an international process of bohemianization. The shape this will take, as the various cadres mingle as promiscuously as Minekawa remixes, is a mystery I find more seductive than the future of the Internet. Bohemians often rebel in peer-conformist ways, yet as Web-rings stretch worldwide those in-group codes will loosen too. The urge for strangeness should have an ongoing place in the new world culture. It’ll be confusing to follow, longer on mixed bags like Fun9 and See It Another Way than obvious masterstrokes like Cornershop’s “6 A.M. Jullandar Shere.” But confusion is sex, right?

There’s a record I’d recommend for anyone who finds the idea of Macha creepy: Indonesian Guitars, the 20th and final volume in Smithsonian Folkways’ Music of Indonesia series. From an intense performance by a female jungga player (four-stringed guitar) to a rural parody of slick urban entertainment, it manifests the unchartable breadth of Indonesian folk culture. Yet the last track is by a group of folklorists who reject discrete traditional genres for cross-cultural patchings. Compiler Philip Yampolsky suspects such samplings are the only way older sounds can flourish as the world supporting them disappears, seeing in crossover an emerging “Indonesia” that can unite bitter ethnic rivals. I don’t know if Joshua McKay would agree, or care: He grew up with his mom’s earlier set of Folkways recordings in the house, and blithely calls one song “Nipplegong” because he finds the instrument name funny, in a Beavis sort of way. That’s who he is; that’s what his music is. You want something purer, go buy something purer.

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Roots Music Ping Pong

Alongside the expected Built To Spills, Stereolabs, and Sleater-Kinneys, there were two surprises atop the college radio charts this year: a Japanese lady singing about clouds and an Athens, Georgia, band transformed by Indonesia. Neither is exceptionally groundbreaking, I’m interested to note, just further evidence of an increasing thirst for global sounds with a bohemian pedigree. It was romance enough, in the 1980s, for college DJs to see that underground sensibilities had spread to Kansas or Arizona. New Zealand noise-pop, goth tribal sounds, and a few Camper Van Beethoven instrumentals were about as exotic as things got. But in the 1990s, punk’s legacy has come to seem provincial, in need of cultural transfusions from far corners—proof for weirdos that we are the world, or at least could be.

Still, Takako Minekawa and Macha are firmly in the indie tradition. Neither could have existed without the Velvet Underground. (Minekawa’s new album even generates some do-do-do‘s, though she’s not the colored girl Lou Reed had in mind.) And both cross a threshold that always ensures collegiate forbearance: Operating rough-and-tumble, they do something odd and make the cake rise in the oven. Macha run around on stage, as at Irving Plaza last Tuesday, switching instruments wildly to fashion grandiose statements that might combine a rock rhythm section with zither, vibraphone, ’70s keyboards, and a taped re-creation of an Indonesian street parade. Minekawa sings in Japanese, English, French, and all-world vocalese over tracks that blend serene minimalism (one samples its beat from a ping-pong rally) with perky good humor. These are Grade A routines, DIY-certified.

Though early copies of Macha included field recordings that Joshua McKay and Kai Riedl made during a trip to Southeast Asia, the band doesn’t claim to have properly studied gamelan: They just sift its vibes, the way Girls Against Boys get off on blaxploitation, and are good enough musicians to integrate those tonalities into their rock moves. Indie rockers have trended steadily toward overt droning anyway, with VU’s “What Goes On” evolving into Sonic Youth and beyond. So Macha’s chimes and percussed strings are an affectation college-radio ears are prepared to welcome, and novel enough to offset some of the band’s cornier buildups. This August’s See It Another Way adds former Edie Brickell sideman Wes Martin, and polishes the sound toward a mannered new wave exoticism. It would be easy to dismiss them: The East has taken in plenty of rockers and fans before. But live they seemed less like dilettantes than jugglers, improbably keeping a wealth of influences from overwhelming them.

Multi-instrumentalist Takako Minekawa is both less and more grounded, a well-connected stylistic butterfly who heretofore has followed each album with a remix disc employing indie, club, and experimental musicians: Pulsars, Kid Loco, Oval, etc. The just-out Fun9 comes remixed, featuring witty grooves by boyfriend Cornelius (the best offered in a second, French version), a less impressive trio with U.S. hipsters DJ Me DJ You, and Minekawa’s own watery meditations, like “Gently Waves” and “Flow in a Tide.” I prefer her air meditation and CMJ No. 1 Cloudy Cloud Calculator, which includes the layered breaths and plunking chimes of “Phonobaloon Song” and “Cat House,” where she plays an obedient feline—who’s read Deleuze. Minekawa too might be written off, as terminally cute or an aural fashion victim, but there’s a consistency to her idiosyncrasies. She joins nature whimsy, electro-minimalism, and panglobal chattiness. It works for her.

Some say the world will end in fire; some say it’ll just turn into one big shopping mall. But if the global economy has littered remote backwaters with McDonald’s and shoot-’em-up flicks, it’s also spread Velvets albums, as part of an international process of bohemianization. The shape this will take, as the various cadres mingle as promiscuously as Minekawa remixes, is a mystery I find more seductive than the future of the Internet. Bohemians often rebel in peer-conformist ways, yet as Web-rings stretch worldwide those in-group codes will loosen too. The urge for strangeness should have an ongoing place in the new world culture. It’ll be confusing to follow, longer on mixed bags like Fun9 and See It Another Way than obvious masterstrokes like Cornershop’s “6 A.M. Jullandar Shere.” But confusion is sex, right?

There’s a record I’d recommend for anyone who finds the idea of Macha creepy: Indonesian Guitars, the 20th and final volume in Smithsonian Folkways’ Music of Indonesia series. From an intense performance by a female jungga player (four-stringed guitar) to a rural parody of slick urban entertainment, it manifests the unchartable breadth of Indonesian folk culture. Yet the last track is by a group of folklorists who reject discrete traditional genres for cross-cultural patchings. Compiler Philip Yampolsky suspects such samplings are the only way older sounds can flourish as the world supporting them disappears, seeing in crossover an emerging “Indonesia” that can unite bitter ethnic rivals. I don’t know if Joshua McKay would agree, or care: He grew up with his mom’s earlier set of Folkways recordings in the house, and blithely calls one song “Nipplegong” because he finds the instrument name funny, in a Beavis sort of way. That’s who he is; that’s what his music is. You want something purer, go buy something purer.

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Machine Age

Public Bus: Back in the day, the relationship between hackers and Trojans was restricted to those (rare?) occasions when the former required the prophylactic properties of the latter. But my, how times change, and now a Trojan application (so called because it requires its “victims” to invite a bug onto their computer, usually through the form of an e-mail attachment) may be hackerdom’s entry into the world of mainstream software. That’s if NetBus 2.0 Pro author Carl-Fredrik Neikter has anything to do with it.

Trojan apps are normally used to invade an unwitting victim’s computer, pilfer passwords, and otherwise create remote havoc. But last Friday Neikter released the Trojan program NetBus 2.0 as legitimate shareware. He’s marketing it as a “remote administration tool” and hoping users will register his product for $12. The news received a mixed blessing from computer security insiders, who pointed out that while the new NetBus no longer runs in “hidden” form— instead allowing victims to know when they’re being spied on— a slightly modified version may still be used to spy on people on the “inside,” i.e., a boss or coworker.

Arms’ Length: Angry about human rights, corporate welfare, campaign contributions, or “war on drugs” tactics? Mother Jones‘s MoJo Wire dug up some evil mojo on federal arms sales during the Clinton administration that may surprise you. The site (motherjones.com/arms) details arms exports to countries like Belgium and Bahrain, Argentina and Indonesia. Topping the rogues’ list is Indonesia, which since 1993 under Suharto’s regime has purchased nearly $1 billion worth of arms from the U.S. and American companies— some of which are used to pillage the East Timorese in Indonesia’s continued napalm- and bullet-laden incursion on the tiny agrarian island. On the site, a native Timorese tells his story.

Eastern European nations like Poland and Hungary are poised to join NATO, and Boeing and Martin Marrietta have their order books ready with their “NATO-compatible” equipment. You’ll be fuming when you find out how many tax dollars have subsidized these corporate giants’ ascendance to virtual arms monopoly, or how much arms companies have donated to federal campaign coffers. The site also includes contacts and plenty of background information for activists to get involved.

Meddling Kids: Go ahead— blame it on NotMe. Last week, somebody went roughhousing around inside Amazon.com’s “reader” reviews of I Had a Frightmare! and Daddy’s Cap Is on Backwards! by Family Circus creator Bill Keane. And you thought Keane’s comic strip was just a flat-panel dingleberry. Keane, here hailed as the “Generalissimo of Burb Noir,” “reaches the heart and leaves a stain,” posted one reader from “Giorgia, Russia” (five stars). In another review, Keane is praised for masterful portraits of “the draconian, all-seeing presence of Daddy” and the “viscid sensuality” of Uncle Roy (four stars). Who said Keane had no subtext? “Family Circus has always advocated forward-looking policies like forced sterilization and the confinement of the insane and dysfunctional,” wrote another keen Keane fan. Is it wrong to hope Peanuts is next?

Animated: If you’re looking for sharp, bandwidth-friendly multimedia on the Web, why waste your time wading through the backwaters of Broadcast.com when you can get 100-proof bottled delight at the Cartoonnetwork.com. The channel recently unveiled two serials, Pink Donkey and the Fly and B. Happy, that are lessons in how to do it right online. Both have style to burn and a giant sense of play.

contributors: Jeff Howe, Reet Rana, Austin Bunn