Tuesday, August 31, 2004
  Let them smell cake
Two copies of the Guardian Weekly arrived chez Jakartass today. As always when snail mail delays my reading pleasure, I read the earlier edition, dated August 20 - 26, first and a couple of snippets caught my eye.

1. Barbecues to break hunger strike
Israel's prison service plans to break a mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners by barbecuing meat and baking bread near their cells. The prison service said that 1,600 prisoners were on strike over jail conditions.

Jakartass hopes that Amnesty International have been alerted because torture is illegal. However, as kosher meat is also halal I don't suppose religious sensibilities will be offended.

2. 1.7m face hunger in Indonesia
Around 1.7 million Indonesians have been living on one meal a day for the past three weeks because the government, which admits it cannot feed them, has blocked a UN world food programme project, aid agencies said

This is serious stuff, and I didn't recall reading about it in the Jakarta Post, so I decided to investigate further and did a Google search having typed "1.7 million go hungry in Indonesia".

The first article I found appears to be a spoof. Rantburg? It's an 'edited' version of an article written by Mathew Moore and originally published by the Sydney Morning Herald on August 18th. The gist is that some 40,000 tonnes of rice donated by western countries for the UN World Food Programme aid for poor families has been blocked by a government ban on imported rice, a policy designed to benefit local farmers.

What's The Buzz reprints the fuller version of the Guardian story: The crisis began in January when rice imports were banned, crippling the WFP's scheme which distributed internationally donated rice to the 300,000 families who live on about 20p a day.

For six months the government allowed the WFP to borrow rice from the state logistics agency, but that ended last month when the WFP said it could no longer guarantee the quality of the rice.

The trade ministry said the ban was needed to support poor farmers as Indonesia produces a 2m-tonne annual surplus. But the WFP said the amount of rice it wanted to import was 0.1% of the national annual harvest, which would have no impact on the internal market

I then looked for word on this from the World Food Programme and found nothing much about Indonesia but their site does have a very nice Java script interactive map.

And then I found a follow-up story which says that the ban has been lifted but now Indonesian rice farmers are angry.

This all seems to be a storm in a rice bowl to me and this could be why this story wasn't recollected by the editorial staff of the Jakarta Post when I rang them. There are a lot more than 1.7 million people who are under-nourished and schooling is low on the list of priorities when mouths have to be fed somehow, so it is good to hear of a USAID programme announced yesterday.

Praise where praise is due.


6:30 pm |
Monday, August 30, 2004
  Blog off
"A good way to get people to visit your site is to visit theirs."
So I did and found a really superb article by Simon of the East Meets Westerner blog. It says everything about blogging that I've thought of saying but hadn't got round to. I can't praise this highly enough, so I won't try

"The great thing about blogging is plagiarising is encouraged."
But I won't tonight, mainly because it's been one of those days. Almost a typical Monday in Jakarta.

Mine started very early when I got into a taxi whose driver told me that he knew where I wanted to go. Maybe so, but not the route. Now, in my 16 years here I've got to know the short cuts and the direct routes, which are not necessarily the same thing. And no, I didn't want to go on the toll road. Why pay to sit in a traffic jam when the road alongside is moving, relatively speaking? So, why do some taxi drivers take it into their heads to read their passengers' minds? My fellow expats will surely be pleased that my anger was such that I doubt whether that particular driver will ever pick up a bule again.

My week started late and my day ended similarly.

A smooth fairly hassle-free drive got me to within 10 minutes of home. 45 minutes later I made it. There are a couple of overpasses en route which were built to ease the flow at intersections. Both drop down virtually at the entrance to toll booths. The queues at both were severely backed up with cars and SUVs, generally only occupied by their drivers who couldn't be bothered to swivel their eyes right to notice that the traffic on the toll road wasn't moving at all!

Are these people stupid or what?

But what exacerbated the delay was a lone policeman waving his magic wand, an illuminated red baton, to stop traffic exiting the bridge whilst allowing traffic to feed in from the left and join the toll road queue. Believe me, my bahasa improves with stress, especially that subset of vocabulary which refers to parentage.

The expat friend of us all, Bart, is possibly too polite for his own good. My problems today are a mere grain of sand in a sock compared to his. Greedy taxi drivers and stupid commuters and policemen are not as venal as the city's developers.

Why doesn't it get any easier to live here?


9:30 pm |
Sunday, August 29, 2004
  It's only a game ...
so the hour long download of Real Player last week in order to specifically listen to live commentary of Charlton's truly abysmal performance last night (local time) wasn't wasted.

Was it?

It being a sunny Sunday, I play Shankar's cheerful Song for Everyone and other ECM albums.

As my Sundays are moulded by the notion of relative idleness I've also got the serious problem of selecting a DVD to watch. As always, the Observer helps me out by suggesting a British film. Although those mentioned haven't yet had an official release, pirated versions are already on the streets here.

So, at least I'm spared the light-hearted banter down the Rose of Denmark.


2:00 pm |
Saturday, August 28, 2004
  A stinking link
What did Peter Sellers, Harry Houdini, Mel Blanc (the voice of Tweety Pie), Colonel Sanders of KFC infamy and Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles have in common?

And that was a very awkward segue into some news of interest to my readers here in Indonesia, the UK and, possibly, the USA.

Thanks to the Guardian Weblog, I have discovered that the plant that I knew as the Raffleasia is blooming in Cambridge. What can be seen is actually a Titan Arum, whose Latin name, Amorphophallus titanium, is very descriptive, 'Amorpho meaning shapeless, phallus meaning penis, and titanum meaning huge'.

Another one has recently bloomed in northern California at the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory. A description of one that bloomed last year makes interesting reading. Amorphophallus titanum, which is native to the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, spends most of its life as an underground stem called a corm. Once a year, the plant puts out a single green leaf that lasts about six months. Eventually, it puts out a flower shoot instead, hoping to attract flies carrying pollen from another of its kind.

In fact, US dwellers have quite a few to view. They have also bloomed at Bonn's Botanic Gardens and Kew Gardens in London.

Jakarta dwellers prefer to visit the Bogor Botanical Gardens to see the flower. These gardens were developed by a young Stamford Raffles before he went on to found Singapore and give his name to a hotel and a very slightly different flower.

Actually seeing one in the wild is very difficult, involving jungle treks in such nature reserves as Rimbo Panti in West Sumatra, a few kilometres south of Hotel Rimbo which is just north of the Equator. This is where I've only ever seen the remains of the Raffleasia, which reminded me of a deflated football. There's a picture of one here. The one thing missing, which, apart from its size, makes it distinctive, was the smell. It's not for nothing that Indonesians know it as bunga bangkai, the corpse flower.

And that's another link the five folk mentioned in the first paragraph have in common.

Cambridge 27 August 2004 



2:50 pm |
Friday, August 27, 2004
  Yer gotta larf
The news that the scion of Maggie Thatcher, the milk snatcher, has been arrested for alleged involvement in a botched coup attempt against the government of Equatorial Guinea is just too good to overlook.

I don't hate the rich, well not all of them. My current visa is the result of largesse from a very well known businessman and ex-playboy here whose kid is in the same class as our kid. As I now have a new sponsor, I will shortly be purchasing a very expensive gateau from my very rich friend's very expensive delicatessen in Kemang, Jakarta's very expensive enclave of very rich expats and others, in order not to appear a cheapskate as I say very many thanks for the largesse of the past year.

I digress, but only a little. You see, my very rich friend numbers Tommy Suharto amongst his friends. Tommy, the son of the Smiling General, is another scion who parlayed his links with s/he-who-would-not-be-criticised or turned into a personal fortune. Tommy was an untouchable who laughed at due process, but finally got caught and is now being a good boy in prison. Unfortunately he won't be receiving any more visits from his busty 39-year-old celebrity ex-model girlfriend Sandy Harun but, no problem, he's just been granted a remission of three months from his fifteen year sentence being served for ordering the murder of the judge who had sentenced him to 18 months for land fraud.

My very rich friend actually served his time for the same land fraud crime, has been rehabilitated and continues to keep a low profile without, to my knowledge, abusing the privilege which his (inherited) wealth has afforded him. He no longer takes part in motor rallying, a sport which, unlike Mark Thatcher, he was very successful in.

And Mark? No-one gives a shit.

Footnote: type "Maggie Thatcher*Milk Snatcher" into Google and be agreeably pleased by how much she is still hated.


6:27 pm |
Thursday, August 26, 2004
  The brain drain
The most widely read online Guardian article last week had this to say: The alarming rise in the numbers of sufferers of brain diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and motor neurone disease, which includes figures showing rates of dementia have trebled in men, has been linked to rises in levels of pesticides, industrial effluents, domestic waste, car exhausts and other pollutants, says a report in the journal Public Health.

In my case, "other pollutants" include Bintang beer because I'm decidedly wobbly today. And I'm extremely grateful to the Reveller for the evening's tour of his domain.

D's Place was, as always, the first port of call. It was full of hale and hearty Australians who, for a while, drowned out the noise of the supposedly background music.

R & I gossiped about this and that for a while before he treated me to a meal. The Top Gun, he said, had the best Australian rib eye steak in town. As a vegetarian, of course I had to be difficult and ask for an omelette. This provoked me to tell the old joke about a restaurant which advertised that no culinary request was too difficult to meet. You know, the one about a guy who orders elephant testicles on toast but is told, "Sorry sir, we're out of bread." The Top Gun was out of eggs.

So we meandered over to the Sportsman's where R indulged himself in a slab of meat in blood sauce and my omelette was just fine. As always, Paulus runs a fine establishment.

So, back to D's, only this time to observe the happenings upstairs. Seated as we were between the dimly lit disco area and the bar I felt was akin to acting in a science fantasy movie; we were seemingly at the portal of a warp machine. To our left was the alien world of spangly lights and young lasses disporting themselves in the shadows whilst to our right there was a frozen tableau; anybody actually moving was a mutant in X-Men or Matrix Reloaded.

Enough brain damage for one night we thought and went our separate ways home. I won't mention the Blue Bird taxi which turned left when I said right, but I still got home early enough to post the few lines below, thus avoiding a sulk from 'er indoors.

Having worked a very full day, it was a good ending.


3:10 pm |
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
  Thanks to my friend Eamonn although we've never met.
But do check out this site of last places at the Olympics, 'cos if you live in Indonesia you can't even see the first places.

And thanks to the Reveller, I'm too pissed to post more. Tomorrow, a day off, will have to do.



11:48 pm |
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
  It's always nice to be appreciated
Forever Charlton loves all things Addick. We're especially pleased with the whole new set of Bloggers. The humour and insight of the fanzine days is re-emerging. Big respect to All Quiet, Nick Dugay (which seems to be moribund), Wyn Grant, The Chicago Addick and Jakartass just for starters. But check out Reet. Stream of conciousness Addick thoughts and left field humour. All his pages also have the entire lyrics to Uptown Top Rankin at the bottom. Well worth a look. Dave Roberts

I'll be honest and say that I do have problems deciphering Reet's thoughts but hopefully his style will grow on me. Personally, I prefer Charby and Madrid Nights.

I'll miss the Premiership Highlights tonight as they're on at 11pm and I have to get up at 5 in the morning. I mustn't grumble, much as I'd like to, as my new gig is going to give a regular income and the necessary visas and permits to continue to live here.

But that's par for the course, if you'll excuse the golfing analogy, here. Poor Taufik who fulfilled his dream of winning Olympic gold in badminton and dedicated it to the millions of Indonesian people who were watching. You wish, Taufik, you and me both.

So, more of the humour and less of the insight because there's not much of the latter here, Dave.

More like, out of sight, but not out of mind. And please, let's hope there's a positive result against Villa tomorrow.


5:20 pm |
Monday, August 23, 2004
  Courtly foreign grace
Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The Revenge xiii

Half a page was devoted in yesterday's Jakarta Post to an advertorial for PT DaimlerChrysler Indonesia. Not having a driving license or any wish to drive, let alone possess, a car here in Jakarta, I wouldn't normally bother to read about how you can wallow in luxury in traffic jams.

But this ad caught my eye as it is illustrated with pictures of Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, both with wonderful whiskers, and a young Pre-Raphaelite looking lass named Mercedes. But the words are set, supposedly in the form of a children's story, in the here and now. So, if you're sitting comfortably, as I can't find this travesty online let me quote verbatim.

With energetic movements, the man with tousled silvery hair was immersed in his daily rite: cleaning, polishing and revving up his car. Like on most Sundays, his nine-year-old grand-daughter was there to lend a hand, enthusiastically.
"We're finished. It's pay time, grandpa! Another story?" Her voice was coy, yet persuasive even so.
"Well, okay. But as always, my stories contain a certain message: a valuable lesson for life."

They washed their hands. She smiled thankfully as he took her to the neatly filed clippings and the computer in the study.

"I'll give you just the highlights, not too chronologically, though. The core message is one of the beneficial powers of that commendable trait: trustworthiness. Hard to give and hard to maintain, but lose it once and it's next-to-impossible to win it back. To me it is the result of honesty and commitment to doing one's best. Ultimately, this trait is also reflected in inventions to benefit mankind. Don't take my words for granted. Observe whats around you and make your own conclusion."

With these opening lines
(which I'm sure all nine-year olds will understand), he took her back in time ... to the history of Daimler Benz.

Exciting stuff for a nine year old Indonesian girl, eh? And it gets even better with the tale of how a little girl was born on September 16th 1889 and named Mercedes, which means 'grace'. This name was used by her father, Emil Jellink, when he won the Tour de Nice in 1899 driving a Daimler. When he bought the dealership for Austria-Hungary, France and America he insisted that the cars should be named after his daughter.

"Now," continued the grandfather, "in my mind, this part of the history is related to you. Your parents weren't prepared for a baby girl. (Nothing like telling a kid that they weren't really wanted.) The first few days, they couldn't even decide on a name for you. I thought of suggesting a name like hers," he said, pointing to a picture of a girl ~ presumably the one in the advertorial.

"Well, to cut a long story short, I suggested the Indonesian word that has a similar meaning to hers: Anggun," He smiled at Anggun, who giggled and pinched his arm.

And so it goes. A car is named after a girl whilst here in Indonesia a girl is named after a car.

Chrysler expressively creates state-of-the-art product designs of exceptional performance personifying the American Lifestyle. The company also purports to have a high degree of social responsibility; there's a bi-lingual .pdf file to download.

If I could be bothered, I could argue that they've transgressed the spirit of their own corporate human rights statement. Advocating possessiveness and an American lifestyle for Indonesia, whilst suggesting that girls are second-best, indicates to me that all this company is interested in is its bottom line.

Which reminds me. Anggun has a nice bottom. I like her singing too.

Finally, for those who may be wondering why I'm not commenting on the forthcoming presidential election, it's because there's nothing much to say. There are few of the dirty tricks happening in the American version, but the horse trading is possibly even more venal. And, like Wimar Witoelar, I hope the electors will choose whoever they feel they can trust the most.

Which probably means that abstentions will be very high.

Ho hum.


9:27 pm |
Sunday, August 22, 2004
  No sex, please, we're Indonesian
Today's Jakarta Post offers validity to the claims that this is now a country without a true identity. It's not the wide range of ethnic and religious groups that I'm referring to, but rather the divergence from the original underlying state philosophy of Pancasila which was intended, as outlined by founding father Soekarno, to unite these groups.

Unity in Diversity is an admirable slogan. We're all God's creatures, all one under the sun, etc. etc.

I don't intend to analyse how Pancasila became a tool of sublimation in the hands of Soeharto ~ this last statement could have been a treasonable act in his New Order ~ but I do worry that certain forces seem to be intent on continuing to impose their vision of an ideal world on the rest of us.

With the exception of an actress, Christine Hakim, who has this week been appointed a UNICEF ambassador, and one or two film directors, such as Garin Nugroho, the Indonesian film industry is not noted for the quality of its products. Very few are worth showing outside the country due to poor scripts, bad acting and weak story lines.

Buruan Cium Gue (Kiss Me Quick) is reportedly one such film. However, even if you wanted to, you now won't be able to watch it because, according to the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI) and cleric A'a Gym, this is "a vehicle to corrupt youth with carnal thoughts". So, put on the spot by the onslaught of criticism, the Film Censorship Board (BSF) withdrew the film from circulation on Friday, giving as the reason "societal unrest"

I spotted a hoarding yesterday advertising My Wife's Boyfriend. Now, there's an invitation to carnal thoughts. Should I tell 'er indoors?


1:29 pm |
Saturday, August 21, 2004
  Taufik Hidayat "produces amazing final display to take gold."

And Soni Kunkoro takes bronze.

And there's a really crappy film on one TV channel, two fat female celebs on another two channels, a dangdut party on another and some boring talking heads yakking on about whatever armchair political pundits chunder on about. But no badminton, the only sport in which Indonesia has any chance of doing anything.

And maybe never again if the IOC does decide to reduce the number of sports in the next Olympics. No doubt they'll keep the synchronised swimming for its historical link to the original games as choreographed by Busby Berkeley.

And my Real Player needs a 9 meg download of bits and bytes so, if my connection holds, I can hear how Charlton are managing not to lose at home to Pompey 'cos there's no live football with tickertape score updates on TV either, except for Man Utd v Norwich after my bedtime.

I ain't happy, except for Taufik.

Hold the press. WE WON.

Charlton 2 Pompey 1. Thanks for the own goal David Unsworth and Shaka Hislop. They all count. So Charlton are now 11th and Man Utd were where they belonged - bottom, until Alan Smith won the game for them.


11:07 pm |
Friday, August 20, 2004
  Results so far
Women's weightlifting - 53kg - Silver
Raema Lisa Rumbewas

Men's Doubles - Bronze
Eng Hian/Flandy Limpele beat Jens Eriksen/Martin Lundgaard Hansen (Den) 15-13 15-7

Still to come.
Taufik Hidayat beat Boonsak Ponsana (Tha) 15-9 15-2 and is now certain of either gold or silver.
In the other semi-final Seung Mo Shon (Kor) beat Soni Dwi Kunkoro 6-15 15-9 9-15.
Soni must now beat Boonsak Ponsana to win a bronze.

So, that's 3 medals so far (and 4 if you count Mia Audina's silver in the women's singles), with the possibility of one more.

As I type this, Indonesia is =32nd in the medals table with Kazakhstan, Portugal, Serbia/Montenego and India.

So do you need televised sports when you've got Jakartass? 


7:00 pm |
Thursday, August 19, 2004
Be a sport and tell us who'’s winning what.

With no live TV coverage of the Olympics in Indonesia, unless you'’re rich enough to have a satellite receiver or live in one of the very few areas of Jakarta with Kabelvision, then it's nigh on impossible to find out how the few Indonesian athletes are doing.

According to Diamond Geezer, we spend 2% of our lives experiencing the Olympics.

Not here.

The Jakarta Post Sports Page is blank. You have to dig really deep into the Guardian'’s pages to find results which don’'t feature another British failure. However, as Governor Sooty is currently in Athens to support the badminton team, whilst the rest of the city council decide how much they can cream off next year'’s budget, perhaps he can set up a blog, even though the IOC have banned them. Apparently you're not supposed to give a hyperlink to the official site either.

Some shrewd detective work has confirmed that Hidayat Taufik plays Thailand's Ponsana Boonsak in one semi-final of the men'’s singles tournament while South Korean seventh seed Shon Seung-mo takes on Indonesian Soni Dwi Kuncoro in the other. So, that’'s two bronzes guaranteed.

Mia Audina, the former Indonesian teenage prodigy turned Dutch national, breezed past China's top seed and world number one Gong Ruina 11-4 11-2 to give herself a shot at gold in tomorrow's women's singles final. The 1996 silver medallist for Indonesia, now married to a Dutch gospel singer, will play China's second seed Zhang Ning.

No doubt Gov. Sooty will claim Mia’'s gold or silver for Indonesia as well.


6:14 pm |
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
  And how was Independence Day for you?
We were popped out of the train at Juanda station this morning along with umpteen others as if the carriage was a squeezed grape; as I described it this evening to 'er indoors, it was like an almighty orgasm. I found an empty bench, donned my tie and black shoes in order to appear 'professional' and then went downstairs ~ this is an elevated railway line ~ to go about the business of my new job.

I counted 15 assorted bodies asleep on cardboard or sarongs laid on the ceramic flooring of the concourse below, 6 mothers doing the family washing at the kerbside and 4 unaccompanied toddlers, with a young teenaged girl 'in charge', amusing themselves in a game of tag. None of these folk were waiting for a train.

Later, having completed a bit of admin back at HQ, with a colleague who lives near me, we wended our way under the four lane highway, over the bridge that crosses the black fetid watercourse and into the patch of greenery alongside the toll road. There was a young lad with a plastic bag on his head, obviously lost in a world of his own. A closer look told us that he had Down's syndrome. And that he was quite alone.

As we crossed the footbridge over the toll road in order to wait for an empty taxi home, we both wondered about the whys and wherefores of that lad. How does he cope? Who dumped him? Was there something we could or should have done?

In Jakarta, most folk turn a blind eye to others' poverty and distress. Street kids learn to fend for themselves and to support each other. Neither of us had a ready answer. I feel guilty about doing nothing and I suspect so does M. Our excuse, if we're allowed one at all, is that we're both struggling to raise local families and we can't all lead ascetic, self-sacrificing lives.

Click this "Street kids*Jakarta" link in Google, and you'll have a choice of 70,500 pages to browse.

So, how was Independence Day for you? Did you treat yourselves to a long weekend in Bali or down at the beach, go to a nice restaurant or did you just take it easy?

I did, but I know that those on the station concourse and the lad in the park didn't.


7:00 pm |
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
  To be a nation

Today is August 17th, Independence Day, and Indonesians across the country engage in customary flag-waving and community celebrations. Such is the routine of this annual event - the 59th in Indonesia's history - that most take it for granted.

After the political turmoil and economic hardship of the last few years, many of us just hope to get by, forgetting that our forefathers' sacrifice may have been as great, if not greater, than the challenges of the past six years.

We sometimes forget that our independence - the very essence of humanity - was achieved after the shedding of much blood and tears. Not just over six years, but a relentless effort of generations.

While the present generation may never fully understand the sacrifice of their forefathers, it does not mean that we should forget them. In a similar vein, while there is much to dislike about the current state of events and actions of the nation's political elite, it should not by any means lessen underlying love for this blessed country.

Birthdays and the turn of the year are always poignant moments for reflection. Certainly there is much to exasperate us as we recount the troubles ailing the nation. Economic and social injustice continue to prevail, leaving the nation even farther from its constitutional ideal of creating a "just and civilized society".

The country, in many respects, is failing to provide basic necessities for its people. Some 16 million children do not receive any kind of formal education, while millions more people are living at subsistence level. Even average life expectancy and the literacy rate have dropped. Not surprisingly, the latest UN Human Development Report listed Indonesia as among the bottom third in a list of 177 countries.

The nation's forefathers would likely share our discontent at this state of affairs. But how would they respond when looking at their country as it ends its sixth decade of independence?

They would likely be satisfied that this young nation, in spite of wealth disparities, has moved beyond mere subsistence.

They would sigh with relief that the territorial vision of Indonesia Raya remains intact, despite the wide range of ethnicities that exist across the archipelago.

They would grin at the current political predicaments, as they recall their own crises and ideological battles.

They would also glare with envy at the abundance of wealth produced by our natural resources.

Constitutional-legal debates, the political division of society and issues of separatism are cycles in history. Fate often dooms the next generation to repeat the mistakes of its fathers. But this generation of Indonesia is, at least, acknowledging and attempting to correct much of the malady of the past. The introduction of a new political system, constitutional amendments and a more accountable government through direct elections are baby steps in the formation of a more mature nation. For this, we, and even our forefathers, should be proud.

There are, of course, a host of reasons not to be a proud of this country, many of which we have highlighted earlier. But our determination to take the difficult road to create a more humane society is a triumph that few nations have dared to emulate.

As we quietly commemorate Independence Day at home with our families, it is worthwhile remembering that while the nation may still not provide for millions of its sons and daughters, it promises hope, the benefits of which will, perhaps, be reaped by the nation's grandchildren.

(This post is taken verbatim from the editorial in yesterday's Jakarta Post)



12:01 am |
Monday, August 16, 2004
  "Every year on Independence Day, precisely at 9:00 in the morning the President reads the familiar words, in their familiar, rhythmic intonation: Pro-kla-mas-si. Ka-mi bangsa In-do-ne-sia . . .

We the Indonesian people hereby declare Indonesia'’s independence.
Matters concerning the transfer of power and other matters will be executed in an orderly manner and in the shortest possible time.

Jakarta, dated 17-8-45
In the name of the Indonesian People.

Soekarno - Hatta

A flag-raising ceremony follows immediately. A white-uniformed student honor guard marches to the reviewing stand, where an "heirloom duplicate" flag is presented to one of its members. She (for on every such occasion that I have witnessed the flag’s recipient has been female) then delivers the "Grand Old Red-and-White" to the team of four who perform the actual raising of the flag. Once the sergeant-at-arms has formally reported the ceremony'’s successful completion, the national anthem, "Indonesia Raya," is sung in heartfelt unison by the crowd. This entire ceremony is synchronized across the nation. You can see it on television, and imagine it being performed in exactly the same way, and at exactly the same moment, in the capital of each territorial sub-unit-province, district, subdistrict, hamlet, and so on-throughout the archipelago. In a country that spans some 13,000 islands and contains the fourth largest population in the world, this is a breathtaking display of "unity in diversity," to quote Indonesia'’s national motto."



11:34 pm |
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Just Czeching.


6:34 pm |
  I'm speechless
My dulcet tones are not what they should be. My vocal cords are extremely sore because of a week long bout with the flu and trying to run a workshop session for 60 teachers who were worse behaved than their students. Another major factor is the haze from the fires of land clearances, presumably in Sumatra. I don't find it strange anymore that it's little reported here even though neighbouring countries are affected.

I really wanted to describe the stupendous views from Puncak Pass, but this weekend they were non-existent. The resort/conference centre we stayed at nestles on a valley slope covered with patches of greenery and splodges of villas. We could barely make out the bare sides of neighbouring hills, but it was still a darn sight better than being back in the haze and added traffic pollution of Jakarta. Or Kuala Lumpur.

I'd forgotten how built up this rural area is. The roads are gaily decorated with banners advertising wooden vilas (sic) at knockdown prices. No doubt they're a fire risk as well. What I couldn't understand is why they're named after Argentina, Valencia, Frankfurt and Newcastle. Football teams? An allusion to the lack of colour?

No expense was spared to make us comfortable, but I'm sure it would have been nicer on the maiden voyage of Queen Mary 2, though probably even on board several colleagues would have felt all at sea without their instant messaging. We take for granted the appeal of velocity, that there is money to be made and pleasure to be had from the gratification of the instantaneous: the three-gulp Happy Meal, the lightning download, the vital cellphone message that I am here and are you there; the soundbite homily, the febrile jump-cut, the whole damned zip-drive, wham-bam, slam-dunk, short-shelf-life, Ritalin-friendly world we have engineered.

Back in the real world, I've caught up with the news. Obviously I'm pleased that the Jakarta Post is following my lead in highlighting various issues. They too feel that pedestrians get a raw deal.

However, I'm not pleased that the pressure for more nuclear power plants has been stepped up for 'environmental reasons'.

James Lovelock, who has repeated his lifelong support for nuclear energy and recently argued that civilisation is in 'imminent danger' from global warming and must use nuclear power - 'the one safe, available, energy source' - to avoid catastrophe.

Safe? Apparently nuclear power, which provides 16% of the world's electricity, saves roughly 600m tonnes of carbon emissions per year (which) is almost twice the total amount the so far unratified global warming Kyoto Protocol treaty is designed to save. The nuclear power chain, from uranium mining to waste disposal and including reactor and construction emits roughly 2-6 grams of carbon per kilowatt-hour. This, it says, is about the same as wind and solar power, and two orders of magnitude below coal, oil and even natural gas.

Great, but there aren't any storage-for-a-couple-of-millennia problems with wind, sun, wave or methane gas power!

Of course, it's all to do with the demand for electricity, which is over-used in the so-called developed, or 'civilised' as James Lovelock calls them, countries and by the 'haves' in the 'developing' world. There is no rush to build nuclear power plants in the West. Of 27 stations now under construction worldwide, 16 are in China, India, Japan and South Korea. Apart possibly from Japan, where there has recently been an accident at a nuclear plant, which was by no means the first, it is rare to hear about public campaigns against nuclear power. The citizens are either too poor to get involved or too indoctrinated by the powers-that-be to stick their heads above the parapets.

Politicians are mainly concerned with their immediate careers and bank balances. For example, with 28% of the world's reserves, Australia is keen to sell its uranium to other countries and to build its own first power plant. Given Prime Minister Howard's ties with the American establishment, it's not so surprising that Indonesia's nearest neighbour is keen to push the big business envelope although he does have to contend with a very well organised anti-nuclear campaign.

Whilst the politicians and businessmen are prepared for any eventuality having ensured themselves a good night's kip for a mere $160,000, the rest of us must remain vigilant and speak up.

Which I shall continue to do once I get my voice back.


6:15 pm |
Thursday, August 12, 2004
  I'm leaving Jakarta !!
Actually, it's only overnight, but it will be the first time since April last year.

I'll report some time later this long weekend about what it's like in Puncak, Jakarta's weekend retreat for the rich up in the surrounding hills. But this is new job related, so there won't be much time for exploring. Still, fresh air? I hope so. Traffic problems? I hope not.

Until a light breeze wafted over Jakarta today, this appeared to be one of the most polluted days ever. I say 'appeared' because it was nigh on impossible to see the tops of some buildings from the streets below. My hands got filthy from handling the pole used to put up the red and white flag every household keeps for display on August 17th, Independence Day. (Actually, this day is the anniversary of the Proclamation of Independence by Sukarno in 1945; real independence from the Dutch wasn't to come for another four years.)

The Jakarta Post yesterday had an article, not online, about the introduction of Naturfuel, marketed by PT Energi Alternatif Indonesia. Wonderful news, except that they only have a production capacity of 500 kilograms per day. Hopefully they'll soon achieve their target of 2 tonnes per day. Most of the fuel, made from 40 types of plants, is being sold to industry. Distribution to motorists could prove problematic, but maybe with the connivance of Governor Sootyoso they could force the bus companies to become environmentally friendly.

Like it or not, something must be done very soon. According to George Monbiot, "We live in the happiest, healthiest and most peaceful era in human history. And it will not last long." Not that the British government accepts this.

Some things seem to be better 'back home'. Local councils manage, on average, to recycle 14.5% of local rubbish and the amount sent to landfill sites went down. Many councils now provide boxes for paper, glass, plastic bottles and containers and tin cans. Many are providing recycled plastic bins free to households to compost kitchen and garden waste that would otherwise go in general rubbish. The result has been a spectacular increase in recycling.

I wonder if such results will ever be achieved here. According to one's perspective, Indonesia is the centre of the world; setting an example for environmental awareness is not part of the picture though.

Down To Earth
, the International Campaign for Ecological Justice in Indonesia, is actually based in Britain. I thought the slogan was Think Globally, Act Locally and not the other way round. If, however, you want to know about the many and various environmental concerns in this country, then you can do no better than to download their newsletter, available in .pdf format.

Climate change affects us all. Natural disasters don't. The chunk that threatens to unleash giant waves if it falls off one of the volcanic Canary Islands probably won't 'wreak havoc' here. Then again, maybe it won't even fall. Yet.

There aren't any volcanoes in Puncak so I think I'll focus on the positive for a day or so, whilst looking forward to getting back in the smoke for the start of the Premiership on Saturday night.


9:19 pm |
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
  When I were a lad
I was an Addick when we were the Robins and the Valiants, and I felt lucky to see John Hewie, Charlie Wright, Eddie Firmani, Keith Peacock, Len Glover (who remained one of the lads at heart according to recent crime reports) and Derek Hales play for Charlton, Rodney Marsh play for QPR and seemingly beat Charlton all by himself, and Stanley Mathews, then aged 97, surrounded by four of our lads, lose a boot and still lay off an inch perfect pass.

Yoof nowadays don't know how lucky they are. Danny Murphy and Francis Jeffers and Dennis Rommedahl and ... and ...?

I cannot recall a more interesting break between seasons. Will he be signed? Will he be sold? Will he go out on loan? Will his knee go? I may be an expat and it may be nigh on 20 years since I was last down the Valley but thanks to the WWW (rather than the WWF or the WWE), I feel more in touch than ever.

My own playing career was strictly of the "Hey, we're short of a player and desperate. Can you play?" variety. You see, Jakartass is physically handicapped. I can't see the players, let alone the ball, without my glasses. Still, although I could say that I was game for a laugh, something I learned down the Valley was that sheer guts and team spirit could overcome a bunch of prima donnas. That, and a ready spare pair.

Sure, as mentioned above, I have memories of sublime moments. Stanley, Rodnee and Georgie Best. Ah, Georgie. There's an expat league here in Jakarta and I was a founder member of a founding team (in 1988, not 1993 as stated here). I played for the experience. Now they play to win.

Inevitably there is a turnover of players. One I recall, Alan Somebody-or-other, had played professionally at Bournemouth alongside Georgie who was then on the last legs of his athletic career. Alan's knees had gone, as have those of Richard Rufus, Gary Rowett and Steve Brown (thanks guys), but he could still hold the centre of the midfield and distribute the ball beautifully. I felt honoured to receive a pass from someone who had passed to the best (pun intended) players in the world. It certainly raised my game, even though we continued to lose on a regular basis. No matter, we played because we felt we could. Knowing you couldn't have played any harder, yet the other team were a darn sight more skilful, fitter or had paid off the ref - this is Indonesia after all, was the main thing. Oh, and the beers in the bar afterwards.

I have a similar feeling towards Charlton. Fellow soccer fans here and everywhere respect the achievements of recent years. Maybe, like Paolo di Canio, they wish they could have shared the joys and frustrations that are part of a family growing old. My grandfather was a supporter of Woolwich Arsenal. It was in his old house that I were a lad. At age 8 he could have gone to Charlton's first game; he didn't. I could have gone to the Valley for Charlton's 50th season; I didn't - the 53rd was my first.

In just one season Paolo became a genuine Addick. His parting words are for all of us, supporters and players, past and present.

"I have often said I wished I joined Charlton earlier in my career, and whatever has happened I will always believe this to be so.The supporters were always right behind me and I hope they will not be angry with me and will understand that, where your family is involved, you sometimes have to do things which are very painful."

Yep, family comes first, which is why you won't see me this season. It won't be too painful for me as I'll be able to watch a few games live on TV and be grateful that Sven's virility hasn't cost him his job so Curbs can continue, hopefully, to demonstrate his acumen for the delight of us all. I suppose I will be disappointed if we don't get in the UEFA Cup at least, but whatever happens, it's going to be another great season.


5:50 pm |
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
  My fate in your hands
Well, I get spam and I get the following from an Italian T-shirt seller - check out the website below. What I'd really like to know is if this is a variation on the Nigerian scam. I've italicised particularly glaring language errors which make me think that this isn't halal. But then, it is, unfortunately, conceivable that 'Mrs.Mary Anderson'didn't pass her English language GCSE, or whatever 'O'levels are called now.

Not being a gambler, never having entered a lottery, scratched a card and very rarely bought a raffle ticket (except for worthy causes) I'd love to know if good fortune really runs in threes. I'm up to two in the past four weeks.

Has anyone else received something similar?
Olympic Way,Sefton Business Park,
Aintree Liverpool,
L70 1NL, United Kingdom.

You have your Fate in your own hand!

Date: 10th August, 2004.
Machine Used For the Draw: MOONSTONE.
Ball Set Used: 6.
Winning Numbers: 14 - 17 - 23 - 28 - 42 - 49 - 05.
Prize Awards: GBP £500,000.00
Our Ref: BNS-NL/0508/04.VOL.2/UK.
Your Ref: BNS-NL/02CTG/0508/04/UK.

Dear lucky winner,
It is our pleasure to inform you of the announcement today as dated of our promotions programme held on the 9th of August, 2004.
Participants were selected through a computer ballot system drawn from 300,000 name of people living in the following countries: United Kingdom, America, Schengen States (eh?), Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Middle-East, Asia and Africa as part of our international promotions program conducted annually to encourage prospective overseas entries.
The result of our computer draw 874 of this day selected your names and email address on the lucky jackpot winning number 14 - 17 - 23 - 28 - 42 - 49 - 05 which consequently won the lottery jackpot prize awards in the 2nd category.

As a result, you have been approved a lottery jackpot lump sum grand prize awards winning of GBP £500,000.00 bonded and insured under a comprehensive
insurance policy in your names for security reasons and credited to file
Ref. No: BNS-NL/02CTG/0508/04/UK.

This is from the total prize of GBP£ 16,765,217.00 in this category as part of our promotional programme for this year 2004. This is your opportunity that your fate has brought to you and we are honoured to have you in a master database. We hope with part of this prize award winning, you will take part in our subsequent lottery jackpots while we say, Congratulations!!!

You have the options of being paid by cash, certified bank draft or Swift Telegraphic Transfer. NO PRIZES WILL BE RE-ISSUED AFTER THE 10TH OF SEPTEMBER, 2004!

This promotion is offered only electronically via the Internet and is open
to all natural persons age at least 18 years and older with a valid email address and who live in any of the aforementioned countries.This promotion is void in all other countries and also is Void where prohibited. Principals and employees of the National Lottery and its respective parents, subsidiaries and immediate family members are not eligible to.

For overseas lucky winners, it is our standard practices to allocate accredited agents for the processing of claim application on behalf of overseas lucky winners and payment of grand prize awards winning to the benefit of beneficiaries after all modalities have been completed satisfactorily. To begin your claims therefore, you are advised to contact
our licensed and accredited claim agent for Overseas Lucky Winners for the processing of your prize awards winning and payment to your designated bank account after all statutory obligations have been concluded satisfactorily.

Yours faithfully,
Mrs.Mary Anderson,
Promotion Coordinator,
International Promotions Unit,
UK National Lottery Organisation,
Liverpool L70 1NL, United Kingdom.
Crea la tshirt con il tuo nick! http://www.mediasetshop.it/JumpyChat/


9:58 pm |
Monday, August 09, 2004
  I put a spell on you
Well, not me actually, but the BBC promise to.

Hard Spell is to be a game show about, um, spelling. "Our motto is 'Spelling is compelling'," said Hard Spell executive producer Karen Smith, who believes that the programme will have mass appeal. "It will be a bit like Pop Idol in the sense that we will explore the backgrounds of the participants and go behind the scenes to show the last-minute nerves. We will show the parents in the audience, the drama of it all."

The parents? Yes, this little bit of reality TV is to find the UK's best speller under 14. Many folks must be appalled at the idea; they're so used to texting that they can't tell their Rsse from their Lbeauz.

I like English. It's a language of both precision and poetry. When speaking there's a lot more going on than mere verbalising. Add intonation, emphasis, grunts and sighs, facial expressions, gestures, even clothing, and the meaning of a message can be altered. Generally, we don't think about how or what we say; our experiences and lifestyle equip us with intuitive and visual spontaneity. We have a choice of vocabulary and syntax which we vary to suit our audiences.

I take the view that if it's worth publishing, then it is worth writing properly. Writing is essentially a solitary affair. We may have a mental image of our readership to lend us a voice, but unless it?s a shopping list or one of those blogs which inform the world that "I kissed my cat and then I had a bath and then ...", then we have time to choose the apt word, the right punctuation and tenses to convey our message.

For an avid reader, there is nothing worse than errors to upset rhythm and flow. If I receive something of importance which I have to read more than once to understand, then its importance is automatically diminished. Here in Indonesia, I do make allowances, but when I come across an advertisement which hasn?t been proof or copy edited, then I'm inclined to think that the product is also shoddy, so I won't buy it. Check out Full Proof's Chamber of Horrors link to see what I mean.

The Beeb may find Hard Spell a hard sell, but then maybe not if Carol Vorderman is involved.


9:37 pm |
Sunday, August 08, 2004
  I'm a typical Aquarian
I don't believe in horoscopes which is why I downloaded mine from the Observer Magazine this morning.

Aquarius 20 Jan-19 Feb: Other people are a mystery sometimes, n'est-ce pas? Even more bafflingly, it's the ones with whom you are tightest who most confound expectations. Use the next couple of days to make clear what is mutually expected; after that, the wires are likely to get hopelessly tangled. Money is, as is its way, high up on the agenda, but with one of your planets, Saturn, so well sited, practical issues bend to your intention.

And it's spot on. With full-time employment replacing eighteen months of freelance under-employment, tomorrow's the day I get to sign on the dotted line, having first donned my binoculars to read the small print. And I already know that some negotiations are pending. Three or four Australians have been recruited. Apart from their pommie bashing, I've no objection to them as colleagues. In fact I think I should pause here to say G'day to all my antipodean colonial cousins.

What I do object to, however, is the notion that expats recruited abroad should be paid more than local recruits doing the same job. My incoming colleagues have all got Indonesian experience; in fact cross-cultural awareness is a major factor in our recruitment as the positions involve mentoring of our local colleagues. And that is how it should be. Sharing and caring are, for Jakartass, essential qualities in the human experience. (It is Sunday, so please excuse a little preaching.)

Having lived here for more than 16 years, without the safety net of social security and/or unemployment benefit, I do know a lot about how to survive in Jakarta. I can find my way around the city by public transport, know where, outside the housing enclaves for the rich and the kampungs, it is reasonably pleasant for we 'rich', in terms of our salaries, to live as part of the local community.

So, why should newcomers receive extra financial benefits, often termed 'hardship allowances'? Because they have financial obligations back in their home countries is the usual response. Well, so do most of us who have chosen to stay here. I contributed a pittance to my English son's university education costs but my parental obligation could not be completely fulfilled following the arrival of krismon. Yep, those of us who have continued to offer our skills and knowledge through Indonesia's recent history are the ones who know about hardship.

So, here's hoping that for once my horoscope is not a horrorscope.


1:06 pm |
Friday, August 06, 2004
  Signs of the times
I, reluctantly, had lunch in Ciputra Mall today. Reluctantly, because I don't like malls. They are soulless, antiseptic and expensive, especially when prices are compared to those of the hawkers who clog up the footpaths outside. Still, we've all got to earn a living somehow, including the shopkeepers in their air-conditioned splendour. Trouble is, the majority of the shops remain empty of customers and have to resort to slogans in order to attract spenders.

I was impressed with the shoe shop which had a sign that declared: Buy 1, Get 1 Free.
Matching, right or left wasn't stated.

Another empty slogan on prominent banners at traffic intersections suggests: Hidup Sehat Tanpa Narkoba. (Lead a Healthy Life Without Drugs.) Well, I'm sorry, but I'd sooner indulge in illicit substances than the foul gases pumped out by the badly-maintained buses, noisy motorcycles and gas guzzling SUVs which block the view of the banners.

It's easy being flippant about linguistic inanities. What is not easy is to convey my despair and anger at yesterday's execution in Medan, North Sumatra, by firing squad, of Indian national Ayodhya Prasad Chaubey, despite appeals by the Indian government, Amnesty International and the European Union to spare his life.

I have never seen the justification for any judicial executions; the death penalty has never been a deterrent. Another story on the same page of today's Jakarta Post, but not online, is as follows: The death penalty handed down to Brazilian Marco Archer Cordova Moreira on June 8th for attempting to smuggle 13.7 kilograms of cocaine from Peru apparently failed to deter three of his countrymen from attempting the same thing last week.

A credible argument is that if anything, the death penalty spurs even more violent crimes. If you know that if caught in the pursuance of a criminal act, the punishment is death, then you have nothing more to lose in shooting your way to freedom.

In his ten years on death row, Chaubey proved a model prisoner, converted to Islam, taught English to fellow inmates and ran the prison co-operative.

In his particular case, there is a major reason for concern. Was Chaubey guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the charge of illegal possession of 12 kilograms of heroin?

He was convicted on the testimony of two Thai nationals arrested at Polonia airport who stated that the heroin 'was to have been handed over' to Chaubey. In other words, he was never proved to have been in possession of it. The heroin was never produced as evidence by the prosecutors who claimed it was kept in storage at Bank Indonesia's North Sumatra office. The bank denied this.

Some have argued that at 67, Chaubey was too old to be executed. Judging by his interview with private television network SCTV the day before his execution, he was not senile. He continued to protest his innocence and to say that the prosecutors had failed to prove his guilt.

The Indonesian legal system is notoriously corrupt at all levels. Chaubey pursued all avenues of appeal, right up to the final appeal for clemency from President Megawati. She turned it down. Is it because she wished, belatedly, to prove her decisiveness ahead of the final round in September of the Presidential election?

She left yesterday for Mecca where she will "pray for my country, because my government?s term will end in October, and for a successful runoff." I hope she prays, too, for the 62 prisoners, including the two Thais (a married couple), currently on death row, some of whom have been waiting as long as Chaubey did - 10 years.

I'm beginning to think that all of us who live in Indonesia suffer from cruel and unusual punishment. Our lives are forfeit to the whims of people who don't listen to any voices other than their own and speak in slogans.


9:30 pm |
Thursday, August 05, 2004
  A beer that ails
A friend has just rung off after a long chat, so this will be a short post. He spent part of the recent school holidays cruising around Pulau Seribu, which means a Thousand Islands ~ although there are only 126 of them, off Jakarta's coast. Having run out of the necessary liquid refreshment, they called into Pulau Kelapa, their usual supply base. And there was no beer to be had anywhere because of the recent first round of the presidential election. And the island will remain dry until after the final round next month. Now, where's the logic in that? Do the authorities expect rampaging islanders and holiday makers to besiege parliament?

They say that abstinence makes the heart grow fonder. What would have been worse in my opinion would have been the discovery of Bintang Zero. 100% Bintang, 0% Alcohol.

Yuk. I'd rather stick to iced tea.

Or, better yet, wend my way through the Great British Beer Festival at London's Olympia for a few, nay, a lot of pints of Skrimshander, Stoatwobbler and Scorcher.

Enjoy, but hurry. It ends on Saturday.


10:36 pm |
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
  Cleanliness is next to ...

A letter originally published in Koran Tempo and reproduced in today's Jakarta Post is worth reproducing here.

To ensure that pedestrians in Jakarta can walk safely and comfortably, the administration must provide broader sidewalks across the capital. All ditches must also be covered to accommodate pedestrians.
Sutiyoso, the Jakarta governor, may want to look to Chile as a model for putting the road network in Jakarta in order.
Santiago, Chile

Chile? Isn't that close to Colombia where Sutiyoso got his ideas for the Trans-Jakarta Busway? Some doubt the integrity of its management but, hey, anything to improve the welfare of the city's councillors is OK by them. The rest of us have mixed opinions.

So, bye-bye Sooty. He'll probably want to do some shopping in Singapore during his overnight stopover. Strangely enough, he'll find that Singapore, which is about the same distance from Jakarta as Bali, is really pleasant to walk around. It's also got a really efficient public transport system, few, if any, traffic jams and is, above all, a very clean city.

I don't suppose Sooty will be around to help clean up Jakarta next Sunday, the 8th. This is a shame as it has been designated as Clean Up Indonesia Day. Sponsored by the World Youth Peace Summit, its main aim for the day is to beautify the city by cleaning up the mess discarded by the 'haves' who disperse their detritus everywhere for the 'have-nots' to collect and recycle.

I asked some friends of mine today how they would clean up the city.

Litter: provide more litter bins and punish litter bugs with community service orders to sweep the streets.
Rivers: move the squatters into low cost apartments and close down those factories which dump their waste into the rivers without processing and/or treating it.
Pollution: Declare Sunday as a car and bus free day. "Let people cycle or walk."

I was very pleased with the positivism demonstrated. One problem, of course, is that there are very few sidewalks that it is possible to actually walk on.

Which brings us back to Eko and the nagging thought that what is really needed is a clean government.


10:05 pm |
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
  It's not croquet
My Guardian Weekly arrived today so I've been able to read loads of last week's news I'd already read online and to catch up on stuff I couldn't be bothered to download at the time.

I'd missed the story about Stephen Hawking doing a U-turn. In 1997 Hawking and fellow theoretical physicist Kip Thorne made a wager with John Preskill at the California Institute of Technology, who insisted that information carried by an object entering a black hole was not destroyed, and so could be recovered. "I'm now ready to concede the bet," Hawking said.

At stake was an encyclopaedia - "from which information can be recovered at ease" - of the winner's choice. "John is all American so naturally he wants an encyclopaedia of baseball. I had great difficulty finding one over here, so I offered him an encyclopaedia of cricket as an alternative," Hawking said.

Cricket? According to today's Guardian, "last year, ... cricket was in danger of becoming a former sport of the summer ... like croquet."

Well, croquet is doing very nicely, thank you. In Egypt and England.

Rules are now more competitive yet have become so by going back to their roots. Golf and Croquet have a common ancestor in the Roman game of Paganica: A player in this game walked across fields and hit a small leather ball with a curved stick and aimed to strike certain trees. The winner was the person who hit all the trees in the fewest possible strokes. This sport developed in two ways. In country areas where there was adequate space, courses were laid out and the target became a hole. Thus the game of golf evolved. In towns where space was limited, the game of Pall Mall became popular. (Pall Mall was introduced into Great Britain from France in the 17th Century by a group of Irish travellers who had seen it played in Brittany. It gave its name to the thoroughfares of Pall Mall and The Mall.)

In this game, a box-wood ball, a foot in circumference, was played down an alley, passing through a number of arches or hoops on the way. The winner was the person achieving this in the fewest hits. This was the forerunner to croquet. It might be noted that the modern croquet ball is about a foot in circumference and is hit with a wooden mallet.

So, now you know. Eat your heart out Diamond Geezer. Bet you didn't.

Finally, do congratulate me. I've completed the Guardian's Quick Crossword for the first time in yonks.


8:30 pm |
Monday, August 02, 2004
  This non-sporting life
I'm glad that Indonesia is the only country in the world not to broadcast the Olympics. I'm too knackered to watch any TV.

RCTI's spokesman Teguh Juwarno told The Jakarta Post, "Learning from our past experience, it is not commercially advantageous to buy broadcasting rights for a multi-event sporting showcase like the Olympics, because we have to buy it in one entire package, while our viewers are only interested in a few sports such as badminton and soccer." What he's saying, presumably, is that there's no hope of any medals in those sports.

What I would not be too tired to get to, if I lived in Edinburgh that is, is a rare concert by Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra. This is music to cheer to and to jeer Bush junior to, with musical scores by the ever-wonderful Carla Bley.

I know the gig will be sold out already, but if there is a reader who can bootleg it, please write to me offline. Better still, I bet it gets broadcast by Radio 3 or whichever quality music station exists. Record it off the airwaves for me.



10:06 pm |
Sunday, August 01, 2004
  This Sporting Life
Michael Mandelbaum is one of America's leading authorities on US foreign policy and international relations and the author of The Ideas That Conquered the World: Peace, Democracy and Free Markets in the Twenty-First Century (Public Affairs), so who better to analyse why football won't catch on in the USA.

"North Americans don't need football because they already get what it has to offer from basketball. ...Football and basketball are ... the team sports that most vividly evoke a common human fantasy: to leave the ground and fly through the air."

Presumably they don't need cricket either because they've already got baseball, which in the UK is known as rounders and played by 11 year old girls.

They've also lost that great sporting icon Mike Tyson. Pity he didn't get kitted up like an American Rugby player and ask for more time-outs. Poor guy. I think he should listen to the Barefoot Doctor's advice.

"However experienced you are, you actually know - relatively speaking - nothing. Life is mysterious. The construct you've created, based on all your opinions about how life works, is merely a construct. Accept this, and you will be transported to that childlike state, beyond the purely rational, wherein anything is possible."

Like becoming the World Tiddlywinks Champion. It's certainly a game past its prime.


2:08 pm |
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