Dancing With the Apes: Kecak Dance, Bali

I intensely dislike monkeys. Maybe it is just envy. Although there is ample evidence that our evolutionary stem has developed a superior brain, deep down at the coccyx of my psyche there may still exist the tail stub of an ape. Maybe I still have a repressed urge to play with myself in public, fling my feces and steal every shiny object that isn’t nailed down.
At the Uluwatu temple in Bali, Indonesia I got stuck in a tourist trap, a narrow passageway facing a phalanx of not-so-great apes. Luckily I had been warned to remove my glasses and shiny objects and clutch my camera. But a woman in front of me was not so cautious. She let out a scream as a marauding macaque snatched her earring and taunted her to return it in exchange for a banana. Come to think of it, this hairy extortionist might consider an alternate career in banking.

But monkeys are untouchable in this Hindu temple perched on a cliff above the Indian Ocean. Every night, in a performance of the Kecak, or Monkey Dance, the monkey-like Varana helps a prince fight off an evil king while 100 men chatter like macaques.

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Floating Through the Canyons of Chicago (Video)

The Chicago “Bean”

Chicago is no longer Carl Sandberg’s “Hog Butcher for the World, Stacker of Wheat” but is still, self-assuredly, “City of the Big Shoulders.” Forget Hong Kong, New York, London…Chicago rules in weight and substance. Its architects — Burnham, Sullivan, Wright, Gehry, dozens of others — gave birth to monuments: to chewing gum (Wrigley), merchants (Sears, Montgomery Wards) who shipped tractors and brassieres to little houses on the prairie, to massive egos (Trump) and architectural movements that swept the world. The skyscraper was invented here.

We are here on opening day of the very first Chicago Architectural Biennial, celebrating ideas from some 100 world architects from Chicago, itself, to Africa and Bali.

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