I've got mail I received an e-mail the other day which wasn't a spam. This is it and my reply:
You asked: "What is it about Jakarta that lured you to design a blogspot?" Answer? Because I've lived here for 16+ years and as a non-participant, because I'm a Brit, I can only observe. And his reply.
East is east, West is west, the two shall never meet.
I stayed mere three months in the UK. I find the natives adopt fairness to survive whereas my countrymen chose humanity. Keep up the good work.
Thanks very much for writing, Sinar. Glad you like my blog so far. And thanks for giving me today's theme as it is from my perspective of both 'fairness' and 'humanity' that I pen these posts.
Firstly, there are many examples of East meeting West. My wife and I are but one example. Problems occur when one or the other seeks a dominant position. And salacious thinkers should instead consider McDonald's and Samsung. Art and music have both benefited from cross-fertilisation, a theme I intend to explore in later postings.
I'm not quite sure what Sinar means about Brits using fairness to survive. What's fair about Roman Abramovich's billions at Chelski or the proposed injection of funds into Liverpool FC by the Thai Prime Minister? Both 'self-made' men have disregarded the rights of others to the rewards of their labours or to protection from abuse. Is being king of the castle what life is about? That's not a game I want to play.
So the British sense of 'fair play' is certainly one of my guiding principles.
"... whereas my countrymen chose humanity." It's the 'whereas' that bothers me. And there are too many unresolved mass killings in this country to justify the use of the word 'humanity'. Many go back to the New Order régime of Suharto, most recently the killing of students at Trisakti University 6 years ago which triggered his downfall and, more abhorrently, the mass slaughter of c. 1,000 Indonesian Chinese.
But does any country have clean hands?
More on Green Maps - Indonesia I got in touch with Marco Kusumawijaya, a key figure in Indonesia's Green Maps movement, to tell him that I've given Green Maps a permanent link. What I didn't mention in yesterday's posting was that there is a map about to be published of Bukittinggi.
I have a personal interest in Hotel Rimbo, an eco-tourism project 2 hours north of Bukittinggi which is due to open at Idul Fitri ~ November 14/15th, so we are keen to network with the green movement in West Sumatra.
Marco wrote: On June 22nd we will actually launch it at The British Council's library, at 1930 pm, together with a book that compiles some 30 articles I wrote in the past four years. (The Green Map) is in English, with a lot of pictures and interesting discoveries. We will be selling them at 20,000 Rp/copy. If you'd like to go to the launch, or want to get involved in Green Mapping, write to Marco.
Incidentally, the green maps of Jakarta are sold at Aksara bookstore in Kemang, not the QB.
Green Maps An interesting article in today's Jakarta Post, unfortunately not online, is about a group of concerned citizens in Jakarta who are mapping the green areas. So far, they have mapped Menteng and Kemang, two upmarket residential areas, and Kota, the oldest part of the city.
Menteng, which has miniature parks for the residents who live in the Dutch villas and grand mansions which surround them, is somewhat idyllic yet exclusive. For me, it's vaguely reminiscent of Kensington in London, a place to visit with a purpose or to pass through, but too expensive for me to live in.
For most of us in Jakarta, green areas are to be treasured before they're built upon. And the last such open space in my area, a former graveyard where kids could fly their kites and electors could cast their votes, has now gone. New residents will soon appear and wonder where their kids can play.
Although a global movement which aims to raise awareness rather than make political demands, Green Mapping is very much a community affair. This is fairly obvious; the website needs updating and there is only one bookshop, in Kemang and presumably QB, which sells the maps. So I've added a permanent link to the right for the 1.5mb download of the Jakarta map in .pdf format.
Many projects are undertaken by schools and universities thus heightening the awareness of communities about their local ecology. I do think it's a shame, however, that demands aren't made of politicians. Otherwise, what's the purpose of elections and the so-called democratic purpose?
The Jakarta Master Plan 2000-2010 supposedly aims to increase the city's green spaces from 9% to 13%. Let's push the new council to actively pursue this policy and put on hold all those proposed shopping malls and car parks. And we can do our bit by letting nature take over our front yards.
What is going on? Following yesterday's meeting at the Embassy about the increased "chatter" among local terrorist groups, all seemed relatively OK. A few hours later, the FCO in London issues a heightened alert travel advisory saying: "If you are already in Indonesia you should consider leaving if your presence is not essential. If you choose to remain in Indonesia you should exercise extreme caution in public places such as, but not limited to, hotels, nightclubs, bars, restaurants, shopping malls, outdoor recreational areas - eh? Where are they? See my posting 3 days ago ~ I can't find any! Please tell us. - public and commercial buildings, transport terminals, and places of worship.
Well, I'm staying. Does look as if I'll have to cut down on the highlife though.
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. Voltaire, 1694 - 1778
I was told this by Paul Speller, the Deputy Head of Mission here in Jakarta, at a meeting this morning of British wardens in the Goose and Durian, the social club at the Embassy.
We were also told to "feel free to tell people you know." There was one snippet of info which I think we should have been told not to relate. This was about ....
Anyway, these were the salient points:
1. There is no specific threat to Brits in Indonesia, although we are advised to keep our alert status up. British companies are advised to vary their work times and travel arrangements. Incidentally, Embassy vehicles do not use the black-on-white CD plates anymore. They're now white-on-black with a variation of the normal numbering ~ still easily identifiable.
2. There is a "climate of problems", notably in Karachi, Bangladesh and the Gaza Strip. Iraq wasn't mentioned.
3. Within Indonesia, the Embassy is "slightly nervous (about) the continuing problems in Aceh, Ambon and Sulawesi."
4. Britain is, thank you Tony Blair, identified with the USA.
5. "Chatter" has increased in the past two months. The most nervous are the police following their re-arrest of Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, allegedly the head of Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), the group supposedly responsible for a string of attacks, including the Bali bombings.
(It would appear that, following the killing in Central Sulawesi on Wednesday night of a prosecutor dealing with terrorist cases, other Indonesia law enforcement officers need to review their security arrangements. Mind you, he was also involved in a major corruption case.)
There was a very low turnout of wardens at the meeting; we felt that this was due to the seeming normalcy of life here. Demonstrations are currently low key and of local concern, such as the disenfranchising of Gus Dur from the Presidential election on account of his near-blindness and a few university campus conflicts.
Our major concern remains the effect of the travel advisories on investment and tourism here. There are risks to life all over the world. The streets of Jakarta are certainly safer than those of, say, Miami Beach. No travel advisories have been issued for Spain and only Indonesia has warned against travel to the UK. Although we recognize that governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens, we do wonder why this country seems to be singled out.
I've witnessed riots in Brixton in London, Moss Side in Manchester, Toxteth in Liverpool, St. Paul's in Bristol. I've been caught literally in the middle of a Hindu-Muslim riot in Kashmir, India. I've also visited Ambon and Poso, two current hot spots, here in Indonesia. I lived through the IRA campaign in London and saw a tailor's shop blown up in Belfast ~ (ceramic) arms and legs everywhere. None of this was planned, believe me ~ I'm really a coward where violence is involved. You shouldn't hit a guy with glasses.
We were told that Jack Straw, the British Foreign Minister, has agreed to review the travel advisories. If there are specific threats, we do need to be told, but there's surely no need to be over-paranoid. Shit happens. Meantimes, take care as per usual and, if resident here, do (re)register with your embassy.
Which reminds me ...
These are the stats:
1. Extrajudicial executions were carried out in 47 countries, including Indonesia.
2. People were "disappeared" by state agents in 28 countries, including Indonesia.
3. Victims of torture and ill-treatment by security forces, police and other state authorities were reported in 132 countries, including Indonesia.
4. Prisoners of conscience were held in 44 countries, including Indonesia.
5. People were sentenced to death in 63 countries, including Indonesia.
6. Armed opposition groups committed serious human rights violations, such as deliberate and arbitrary killings of civilians, torture and abductions or hostage-taking in 35 countries, including Indonesia.
7. Armed groups have committed torture and ill-treatment in 18 countries, including Indonesia.
8. Armed groups have taken hostages and abducted people in 16 countries, including Indonesia.
9. People were executed in 28 countries, including the USA but not Indonesia.
10. People were arbitrarily arrested and detained without charge or trial in 58 countries, including the UK but not Indonesia.
It's small work and no play When I came to Jakarta in late 1987, I looked for recreational opportunities. In particular, I wanted to play badminton because I used to be quite good at it. Now, bearing in mind that Indonesia has long been one of the world's powerhouses in this particular sport, I thought it would be easy. Coming from London with its many evening classes held in local schools, I obviously came with false expectations.
In the early mornings you can witness aerobics sessions in the front of office blocks, police stations and mosques; joggers are out on the streets and, just occasionally, you get to see pembantus (maids) in the back streets proving that they can't hold a racquet properly.
Fitness centres can be found in hotels and other posh places and, if you're particularly well off, you've got a swimming pool tucked away in a corner of your back garden or at the foot of your apartment block. But if merely getting by, then what choice have you got?
The city government thinks it has the answer. More shopping malls because, as Governor Sutiyoso says, "the existing ones are always packed with people....". Yet, according to the administration's own figures, 70% of them only go for window shopping!
And that statistic excludes the unemployed. Official figures suggest that 700,000 are unemployed, but no account is made of the uncountables living, nay, barely surviving, on the bare minimum wage of c.$100 per month earned in the factories which churn out useless crap for the boutiques in the malls. And we mustn't forget the street hawkers and scavengers who regularly lose their homes for the sake of 'development' ~ usually meaning new shopping malls.
Thanks to Bart of the Expat Newsletter for today's theme, which I'll certainly return to at some time.
Are you sitting securely? Regarding my posting on Monday, I've tracked down the western interests supposedly at risk from terrorists. According to a press release issued on Monday by PT International Nickel Indonesia Tbk (PT Inco), has "evaluated" the advisories issued by the Canadian and Australian governments although Chief executive Scott Hand said yesterday that it's his understanding that PT Inco wasn't directly targeted.
What is a problem is the inter-communal strife in Poso, 100 kms away from Inco's base of operations at Soroako where there are c.60 expat employees.
Of possibly greater importance is that the Ministry of the Environment and the Association of Indonesian Accountants are planning to establish a new accounting standard that would enable financial statements to also reflect the level of environmental responsibility of companies.
Will PT Inco, and other mining concerns, be favourably audited? If not, they should be targeted ~ of course, in a strictly non-violent way.
PS. Missy Elliot (who's she?) has cancelled her gig tonight at Senayan due to the travel advisory issued by the American government.
Busway Update I had occasion to pop on the Busway today. Regular readers will know how I extol the pleasures of whizzing up and down the main business thoroughfare of Jakarta in air-conditioned comfort whilst regular traffic is totally backed up in the lanes either side. The pleasure can be somewhat diminished however upon disembarking. Have any of you tried to get off wanting to go to, say, Hotel Sari Pan Pacific? You actually have to detour through the Hard Rock/Sarinah car park because the sidewalks are blocked off.
I believe the keyword is infrastructure. Or brains.
Still, I did pick up what appears to be the 9th Transjakarta! newsletter and I learned, and hereby pass on to you, the next 13 Busway Corridors.
1. Pulo Gadung - Kalideres
2. Rawa Buaya - Juanda
3. Pulo Gadung - Tanah Abang
4. Kampung Melayu - Ancol
5. Kampung Melayu - Cideng
6. Pasar Minggu - Manggarai
7. Ciledug - Kali Malang
8. Kampung Rambutan - Kampung Melayu
9. Warung Jati - Imam Bonjol
10. Tomang - Harmoni - Pasar Baru
11. Pulo Gebang - Kampung Melayu
12. Senayan - Tanah Abang
13. Lebak Bulus - Kebayoran Lama
But no Cawang - Taman Anggrek.
However, there are some nice animations at the official website showing you how to queue.
So, praise where it's due, with just one question.
Is it really necessary to wait until 2010 for all this to happen?
From today's headlines 1. 11,000 foreign, mostly from Malaysia, Singapore, the United States, Japan and Europe, and 622,935 Indonesian tourists visited S. Sulawesi in 2003.
2. Canada warned on Sunday of a "credible terrorist threat" to western interests in Indonesia's South Sulawesi province. Visitors should consider avoiding 'soft' targets such as hotels, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools and places of worship.
South Sulawesi is a stronghold of Golkar, the party of former President Habibie, a son of Sulawesi. Another son is Jusuf Kalla, the Vice Presidential candidate-in-waiting with front runner Gen (ret.) Siswono Bambang Yudohusodo. Kalla is one of the many prominent Indonesian businessmen involved in the Sulawesi tourism industry. So I can only see Indonesian targets.
3. The Americans and Australians have also issued travel advisories. However, these relate to possible election-related violence. At the moment, the only demos are in favour of Gus Dur, the former president who has been ruled ineligible on account of his near blindness.
To my mind, this is either manoeuvring by his political rivals or blatant discrimination against folk with physical disabilities. Given that it's nigh on impossible for disabled folk to go anywhere in this city, I've settled on the first reason. Now, unless the American and Australian governments are meddling in the so-called democratic processes here, which given their past interferences is quite possible, then where is the danger for westerners?
Still, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.
No-one is leaving their seat Could it have been because neither Manchester nor London is that close to Cardiff? Actually, there was one so-described "idiot" who left his seat and wandered onto the pitch. But the commentators left us in the dark as to which team's colours he favoured.
United were quicker, sharper but largely pedestrian, in keeping with their form of this season. Then there was Ronaldo. "Ronaldo reminds you of what this game is capable of, how naked skill can lift matches and their spectators."
For all that, "Bermondsey was, for 90 minutes at least, the centre of the sporting universe."
So, that's it for another year, bar the play-off finals, Euro 2004 and the musical chairs participated in by managers, players and the media alike.
So now we can get back to reality, or the fiction that is reality TV. Everyone seems to want a quick fix and to get paid for it; I want to be a Bollywood film star or the President of the USA. Gizza job. I can do that.
Underdogs v Overdogs In common with zillions of other worldwide viewers, I'll be watching the F.A. Cup Final tonight between Millwall and Manchester United, a match featuring "the most unpopular team in the England against the second-most unpopular." Which is which?
I'll be hoping that Millwall will achieve some glory. As a Charlton fan, I really shouldn't as Millwall are our local rivals, albeit some 40 odd places below us. Still, they do seem to have curbed the hooligan fan element and are a responsible club with their community outreach work. The main reason however, and as always, is that I'm hoping money won't buy happiness.
What also won't buy happiness will be the incessant prattling of the commentators in the TV7 studios and the swift switching to the ads at the end of the match so we won't be able to share in the joy and sorrow of the victors and losers.
I suspect that Ken Livingston, London's mayor, will be looking for some reflected glory too. In his campaign for a second four-year term as London mayor he has attacked two of the most cherished habits of the capital's motorists - running around narrow streets in huge four-wheel drive vehicles and concreting over the front garden for parking space.
Continuing the theme of underdogs, non-readers of the Jakarta Post might like to know that we've 'celebrated' 6 years without Suharto this week, but his friends are still around giving the boot to each other's presidential campaigns.
Lost for inspiration I often browse other blogs. Obscure blogs has a 'Random blog' link which is sometimes worth a click. As I Wear Glasses, Do You?, I may go for a mutual permanent link. But I think I'll merely plagiarise Seaside Hodge Podge. "I have ... started about 5 different posts today. None of them stayed. My brain (or my fingers) want to write but everything comes out mush ... uninteresting mush at that ... Nothing seems witty or exciting or fun so I will leave the blogging for another day."
The contents of your head colour the world around you Regular readers of Jakartass should know that my central contention is that nostalgia is never what it used to be. I have no desire to return to live or work in London. Or Paris. Or Barcelona. Or Bangkok. Every city has its pleasures and frustrations.
What I do miss and what I think ~ perhaps 'hope' is a better word ~ is achievable here in Jakarta is a greater sense of belonging and, above all, civic pride. It's not just the major projects which are important; the little moments of communal courtesy and privacy have immense value.
Stephen Gill has spent the past five years wandering around London taking pictures of things that are so familiar and obvious that they fall below the usual threshold of people's attention. Also One man and his blog is presently photographing Soho on a daily basis. Hey, there are pleasant parks for reading a book and lunching in.
Have you ever spent time stuck in a Jakarta traffic jam at night and wondered who the artists are who've created those stringed fairy light structures? Visual candy floss maybe, but they're a pleasant diversion. I assume it's the city government which is responsible, so praise where it's due. And perhaps they'd like to check out the Urban Trees of San Diego in California for an imaginative use of sidewalks. Some alternative photographs/viewpoints of this public art can be found at this blog, thus demonstrating that art should be involving.
I learn a new word ~ sinis We expats are often accused of being cynical, and for good reason. However, when discussing current affairs with some Indonesian executives today, they used the word sinis, to describe not only themselves but also, and perhaps more pertinently, the strange antics of the soon-to-be not-elected presidential candidates.
The media scrum that greeted Fery Santoro, the RCTI cameraman held hostage for a year by the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), upon his release from captivity was quite horrific. No wonder he cried hysterically. But why was Amien Rais at Soekarno-Hatta airport to greet him? And why did President Megawati grant Fery and his family an audience. And photo opportunity?
Nothing to do with the up-coming Presidential election of course. After all, both Amien and Mega will also meet the other 170 released hostages. Think of the photo opportunities there. Several babies can be cuddled.
You've got to feel sorry for Gen (ret) Wiranto as well. The only media attention he's getting is because he has been indicted by a United Nations-backed East Timor court for crimes against humanity. He suggests that it's all a plot by rivals for the Presidency. Of course. How unfair of them.
What has produced the most cynical comments, however, relates to the convictions for corruption of 43 members of the 55-strong Padang, West Sumatra, legislative council. A similar case is pending against the Cirebon, West Java, legislative council and the Governor of Aceh. Yet various House of Representatives members are shocked? The biggest shock is that these trials and investigations are actually taking place. A bit late in the presidential reign isn't it?
Still, no matter. Given that at least 70 percent of voters have already decided who they will vote for on July 5, even before the campaign period has officially begun, this limits the effectiveness of the campaigns.
As I often say, whoever you vote for, the government gets in.
London Mayoral Election Anyone interested in how a city democratically elects its mayor, or how Jakarta could elect its governor, need look no further than this blog.
I'll keep the link up until June 10th when it's winner take all.
We Make You Fly Offhand, I can't remember which of the newish cheapo airlines has the above slogan, but it scares me a little. At least it's more re-assuring than Trust Us To Fly.
The proliferation of these budget airlines post-9/11 initially seemed like a good thing and, strange to relate, there haven't been any disastrous landings recently. (Touch wood ~ if you can find a tree).
Now comes the news that the current oil prices are a bad thing and there will have to be a surcharge on fares. But, is it such a bad thing? As much as we all like the so-called convenience of getting from A to B quicker and without the discomfort and fear factor of long-distance bus journeys, planes are the great polluters. "The skies are grey-brown with the trails of low-cost air travelers." Add on the costs of added infrastructure, such as roads, extra runways, noise pollution and the dangers of over-crowding in the skies, and perhaps air travel isn't so cheap.
Far better news here is that U.S. energy giant Chevron Texaco, has announced plans to invest US$100 million in a geothermal plant expansion for which it is seeking "emission credits" under the Kyoto protocol.
On a slow news day, when I read Law (sic) rupiah blamed on foreigners, and it all seems a bit same old, same old, I've been moved by the faith of Jane Tomlinson who was told four years ago that she had bone cancer and would die within six months. From running three London marathons to cycling across Europe, she's done a lot of living since then. This is her extraordinary story.
I also have hope that Hotel Rimbo (= jungle) will open later this year. Have a look at the website under construction for the vista photographed by my son when we visited last year. It's just north of the equator in West Sumatra and where I get my brain washed. Pro tem I'd be happy to answer any enquiries if you drop me a line. Jungle walks are an option and if you want to know what you might see, check out this site for a map of local nature reserves.
And now for a distinct lack of charity and an everyday story of shooting in south London. What really saddens me about the whole sorry tale is that twenty years ago I ran a children's charity providing out-of-school activities in the area. There was too much social deprivation, but no gun culture.
From the Crow's Nest I know this posting is a bit of self-indulgent crowing, but having been an Addick for more than 40 years and because this is my blog, I think I'm allowed to.
In a season which has seen Arsenal go undefeated and Leeds go down a division and the financial tubes, "It's going to be difficult for Charlton to remember that this, in fact, is their best-ever season - disappointment always lingers longer than success."
In fact, it's been Charlton's best finish since 1952/53. And the first victory on the final day for 17 seasons.
But, actually, the commentator was talking about the women's team's disappointment in the FA Cup final, which they lost 3-0 to Arsenal who also won the league title last night when they beat Fulham 3-1. So Charlton ended up second. Not bad at all.
Keith Boanas, who helped Charlton to the Premier League Cup, was voted Nationwide Manager of the Year by fellow Premier League clubs, the FA and the media.
Ann-Marie Heatherson, 20, who received her first England call-up in February, picked up the Umbro/FA Women's Young Player of the Year after her 12 goals in 12 starts this season.
And Scott Parker is (male) Young Player of the Year. Chelsea pay for the plaudits but Charlton take the credit. Parker reserved most praise in his acceptance speech for former manager Alan Curbishley and refuses to be blamed for Charlton's disappointing (is it?) end to the season. Yet, since joining Chelsea pundits agree that his season hasn't been so good. He went for the money, but money can't buy happiness. Especially for those who contributed to Roman Ambrovich's billions.
What else. Oh yes ~ champions by 8 points of the Premier Reserve League South.
Dean Kiely scooped the Charlton supporters' player of the year award for the second time in three seasons after his triumph in 2002. Coach Mervyn Day, a distinguished former keeper himself who has worked with some of the top names in the game, has put Kiely up there with the best of British. "I was lucky enough to be picked for England at an early age," said Day. "I've worked with Phil Parkes, Ray Clemence, Peter Shilton and Nigel Spink just after he was called up for England, and Deano's right up there with them. He's been great for us since he came to the club. He's more than repaid the faith we showed in him by spending £1million on him. His reliability is first rate."
Matt Holland (capt.) "We have had a good season. In terms of the size of our squad, the wages we pay out, the size of our crowds - many people would think we're punching above our weight."
Alan Curbishley (manager) "To be honest, I don't think we get the credit we deserve. People have said that we've fallen away again, but when you look at what we've achieved here in the past five seasons in the Premiership it's incredible. And we haven't had any help, we haven't had anyone come and chuck lots of money at us."
Former players seem to agree.
Shaun Newton insists Wolves must come back "all guns blazing" after relegation this season and try to emulate his former club Charlton.
Matt Svennson says he "should have left sooner but ....... Addicks (are) a role model for Norwich."
There's a possible pre-2004/5 season tour of China lined up. The Shenzhen Evening News said that the east London team will visit Shenzhen and Shanghai during eight days in China. Hang on. We're from south-east London. And we've already established community links in South Africa.
Now for Indonesia. That's me and Scott (not Parker) and ......?
Great news that monorails are to be built. Or is it? One route is going to run along Jl. Sudirman ~ above the Busway? ~ and the other along Jl. Casablanca, the dual carriageway which is just 12 years old. Unless there is a congestion charge or permanent 3-in-1 system along these roads, then I can't see there being any reduction in traffic chaos. And wouldn't the reputed US$600 million investment be better spent on improving the current rail network and on a new bus fleet?
The old heave-ho So, the Daily Mirror's editor has been sacked at the behest of shareholders and escorted out of the Mirror's H.Q. for publishing fake photos of Iraqi torture victims. His employers said he had fallen victim to a "calculated and malicious hoax". But that doesn't negate the recognition that, contrary to the Geneva Convention or simple humanity, that torture has taken place. And maybe continues. An editor's wrongs do not make everything all right.
"Whatever the origins of the photos, none of the figures condemning them seem to dispute that torture is taking place. So the idea must be that the Iraqis would never have known we were torturing them if it wasn't in the newspapers."
I had hoped to link to this story and others from The Independent as they occasionally take a similarly oblique view on current affairs. Unfortunately for impecunious me, there are substantial fees to be paid. So much for the free press. So I resort to Znet. Noam Chomsky and John Pilger fans can do the same.
A hard rain's a-gonna fall Does anyone in Jakarta have a roof that doesn't leak? I thought the rainy season had been done with. Until today and for the past six months, there'd been only one seemingly unfixable wet spot. Still, that's only a ho-hum scenario.
In the States they've finally woken up to the horrors of global warming with the release of the unscientific disaster movie, sponsored by Rupert Murdoch, The Day After Tomorrow. Anything to get their collective minds off the horrors of Iraq.
I'd rather watch Raiders of the Lost Ark - the Adaptation. "In summer 1982, three Mississippi boys decided to film a shot-for-shot remake of their favourite movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark. After years of toil - which saw one of them being set alight, another having his head blown up, and the whole lot of them blagging the use of two US submarines - their backyard odyssey is being hailed as a crackpot masterpiece, not least by Steven Spielberg himself."
Bland Names® Not least because I'm a vegetarian, I've only had a Big Mac twice in my life, in Atlanta and Kentish Town, London. They tasted (?) exactly the same. Unfortunately, I've had the fish thingy on more occasions than I want to recall. "I don't think McDonald's is about taste. It's about the lives we lead, the quick fix to hunger ....... This place is genuinely cheap. ....... I leave, burping." This comes from Joan Bakewell's, once (still?) known as the thinking man's crumpet, account of her first visit to McDonald's at the age of 71 and was a reminder that their food is crock. Sorry, feeble joke.
Judging by the BMWs and Mercedes parked outside the Jl.Thamrin branch here in Jakarta, I believe that McDonald's is not so much a place to eat as a place to be seen. But not by me.
I equate Coca-Cola with the same philosophy of global domination through blandness and the restriction of choice. Some 18 years ago I set off on a trek through the northern hills of Thailand. My intent was to go so far off the beaten track that I couldn't find a Coke. For me, things go better without it. Predictably, I failed in my quest. And this is why I'm not happy with the news that for a mere £15 million, Coca-Cola will now sponsor the League championship. I do know that they sponsor kids' soccer clinics worldwide, but at what price? Do they have a tie-in with dental clinics as well?
The same question could be asked of Pepsodent whose name is now on fruit flavoured boiled sweets. Do you still have to brush your teeth after sucking on these, or are they another quick fix?
Finally we come to Brylcreem, which most of us will associate with the white gunge barbers used to smear on our hair. I'm not sure if it was meant to keep our hats on our heads or to waterproof our scalps if we weren't wearing a hat. Whatever, there's now a Brylcreem underarm deodorant. I find this change of use particularly interesting because the hunk in the TV ad has hairless armpits. Perhaps it's this that drives the girls crazy.
Six years ago today, 4 students were shot at Trisakti University "at the hands of security personnel". Their deaths triggered the downfall of Soeharto and the reformasi movement. Has life got better?
Few think so, not with the then army chief Wiranto now a leading candidate for the Presidency.
Living through the excitement of a televised revolution, picking up on rumours and yet not hearing of the horrors being inflicted on the Chinese community led me to get online. And here I still am. Has life got better? I don't think so.
But there is hope; hope that the horrors of that week will never be forgotten. Or repeated. Hope that a civil society will emerge that really is civil and not riven by the division of spoils.
I turn into a pumpkin I was just going to post this when on the stroke of midnight there was a power cut.
Anyway, there's another blogger in Jakarta. Actually, I had no idea where Weblog Wannabe lived because, having logged on from the Guardian link, her site was down. But now it's back on line and I read that she's off to London this month and then Toronto. It's a nice looking site, so please keep it up Wannabe and have a good trip.
The only other Indonesian blog is definitely defunct, so yours truly has taken Arif's place on the Guardian page linked above.
Last year's best selling book in Britain was not Harry Potter. It was Eats, Shoots and Leaves, a book about punctuation. Surprised? Well, not as much as I was when I failed miserably at the online game associated with it. Ho hum. But I did do better at these grammar questions.
And, to celebrate their public flotation, I now find that Google have updated the software for these blogs. The circle of my learning curve is not yet complete.
A walk in the park I asked the Reveller what I could blog about today and he told me that he'd write about cover charges in bars. Title? How To Ruin Business Without Really Trying.
So that was him sorted out. I figured I'd have a look at a blog or two for my inspiration and came across this in Casino Avenue: "I was asked to visualise a peaceful, relaxing place ...... for me, a walk in the park can do the trick." He was referring to Greenwich Park; ah, been there, done that.
And then I remembered that the Jakarta Post recently had a picture of some masochists undergoing reflexology ~ the manipulation of the 10,000 nerve ends in the feet ~ at Monas, the open space which can be difficult to get to near the Presidential Palace. Apparently enough folk enjoy the pain of walking barefoot on large pebbles that they're going to extend the path. As in Greenwich Park, there are deer at Monas. As these seem to suffer extreme stress, perhaps they could be encouraged along the path.
Busy going nowhere News that Ken Livingston, the Mayor of London, will be given authority to run London’s overground rail services, thus being able to integrate them with the Underground, set me to wondering if there wasn’t a lesson for our hopefully-soon-to-be-replaced Jakarta Governor.
Firstly, I’ve always admired Ken for his efforts to provide services for the London public rather than a bunch of shareholders seeking profits to subsidise their chauffeurs. The figures on a congestion charge scheme he introduced last year show that congestion in the zone is down by up to 30 per cent, average speeds are their highest since the 1960s, journey times are more reliable and businesses have benefited, though not all agree. However, if any British electors reading this agree with my polemic, they’d be well-advised not to vote for the Tories next time round. Last year they urged that money spent on the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan (should) be redirected towards new road building in Britain.
Jakarta only has 7,500 km of roads, many in appalling, if not downright dangerous, condition for the 4.7million vehicles. If the average vehicle length is 3m, and only 40% of those vehicles are on the road, it’s a macet total situation. Given that the population is, say, 10 million with the majority too young, too old or, more likely, too poor to drive then it’s clear that it’s the well-off who are responsible for the regular traffic snarl ups. And, per se, they can afford a congestion charge.
I’ve already praised the new Jakarta busway and sincerely hope that more routes are being planned, such as between Slipi and Cililitan, which serve residents rather than commuters between business districts. But that isn’t enough. We also need an improvement in the rail services. I find it strange that the only online info about Indonesia’s train services was put together by an enthusiast, albeit a couple of years ago. And the Jakarta City Council gives a nice flashy ad, but absolutely no information on its transport ‘system’.
50 years ago today , Roger Bannister was the first man to run a sub-four minute mile. Or was he? Some say that his use of pacesetters destroyed the ethos of athletics. Whatever. That was then and this is now.
Now. it’s impossible In Jakarta to walk or drive, let alone run, a mile in less than ten minutes.
White bread, brown bread. Some folks eat to live whilst others live to eat. I'm not obsessed with food though I did once try a macrobiotic diet. I wondered why the food seemed so minimal. In Thailand, I ate fried grasshoppers which, until I was told what I was snacking on, I thought very tasty. Here in Jakarta I've dined on snake satay, which, of course, tasted like chicken.
A few years back, a Brit-Aussie acquaintance visited us and we got to discussing our street parade of meals-on-wheels. On occasion, perhaps when 'er indoors is out, I'll have a nasi goreng (fried rice). Our visitor asked if I didn't suffer from stomach problems; he would only dine at the 'best' restaurants, preferably in 5 star hotels. Strange question, I replied, because his guts, unlike mine, had never got acclimatised to life here.
As I commented on 20th April, I won't traipse across town for food; I rely on local services. I regularly buy bread and cakes from the passing converted becaks (pedicabs) and have learned to recognize who has the best gambang, which is akin to gingerbread but without the ginger. I also like kismis, which is a flirtatious variant on a Chelsea bun.
However, I'm not a great fan of the bread; invariably white and even more so as the local populace like it with the crusts shaved off. Why? Where's the goodness? And what do they do with the breadcrumbs? I fear that Indonesian bakers are going down the same homogeneous path as the British bread industry.
So, here's a reader survey question I'd really like an answer to and I promise to publish the results. Where is the best brown bread in Jakarta?
And back in Britain, it's my sister's birthday today. Happy birthday, Sue.
Please send me a slice of your cake.
Safe Conversation Topics When you've nought to talk about, the weather is always a safe topic. In Jakarta, we've also got the traffic, but I mentioned that yesterday. Anyway, observant readers will have spotted the Weatherpixie to the right. This is what she had to say earlier on today:
90 minutes ago, at 08:00 UTC, the wind was blowing at a speed of 2.6 meters per second (5.8 miles per hour) from Southwest in Jakarta Halim Perdanakusuma . The temperature was 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit), and the pressure was 1,005 hPa (29.68 inHg). The relative humidity was 79.1%. There were scattered clouds at a height of 549 meter (1800 feet). The visibility was 6.0 kilometers (3.7 miles).
I could have picked the weather station at Soekarno-Hatta, but I figured that Halim is closer to home.
For even more mind-numbing info about the phases of the moon and what is predicted for the week ahead, check the link under Living in Jakarta.
Shopping is another safe topic, but I hesitate to add the following because I'm sure it's going to lead to irrelevant (to Indonesia) Google ads at the top of the page for American e-sales of computer accessories. However, I do think it's fair to publicly acknowledge my public. Following my blog entry on 26th April, an observant reader has written to tell me that "you can get (ink cartridges) refilled at Mangga Dua Mall, first floor near entrance." Thanks, D, I did know that and for the same service Ratu Plaza is also handy. The problem is, my cartridges were already dry and I'm told they can only be refilled before they're empty. But thanks for writing.
Severndroog Castle One's life path is partly defined by the geographical boundaries and community facilities experienced as a teenager.
I grew up at 204 Shooter's Hill Road but left there umpteen years ago to go to university. Our house was midway between Blackheath and Shooter's Hill. A little way up the road on the other side was Hornfair Park with a lido for early Sunday morning dips. (I've disliked swimming ever since.) Cross the road, walk through the estate and there was Charlton House, an Inigo Jones designed house which was my local library. Continue through Maryon Park with its deer and there was The Valley. I'm still an Addick.
Pedalling up 'the Hill' without dismounting was always a challenge with the freewheeling back home the reward. At the top were the woods where I was envious of other teenager cyclists with their cowhorn handle bars which seemed so much more suitable for rough riding. Mind you, my Rudge frame was sturdier. We would race, play tag or Commandos, which was our generational 'Cowboys and Indians'.
And I still live in a city, Jakarta, albeit one without parks, play areas for children or the freedom to roam. My Indonesian son and I don't have access to Greenwich Park or Castle Woods. He won't experience the simple pleasures of urban nature, the first bluebells and the delights of 'natural' forest which landscapers have allowed in order to counterbalance their structures and layouts.
A park needs maintaining. Its main function is for play, which has the all-important connotation of exploration. Severndroog Castle at the top of the Hill is a fantasy. The Princess in the Tower, the lone coconut palm on Robinson Crusoe's island or simply a desirable residence for those otherwise imprisoned in impersonal housing estates or living 9 - 5.
I am saddened that there is a need for a campaign to re-open Severndroog Castle but heartened to know that people care. Share my nostalgia and see what I saw here.
It's a shame that there aren't more such community minded groups here.