Ooh Baby I decry the loss of privacy through the immediacy of today's communication technologies, such as SMS.
So, I don't have a handphone.
I do enjoy the occasional access here in Indonesia to what is known as Information Technology.
So, when I ask Google a question I can sometimes get an answer within seconds.
I may not have much to say, but IT lets me say it.
So you get to read it.
I may not know who you are, but I don't have to know.
So blogging is writing for the unknowns. In which case, I feel, there should be a relevance to an imaginary readership. However, if you don't care for what I have to say ~ let me rephrase that, if you don't have a particular interest in reading what I write, you should have navigated away by now.
So why did I bother to read about the 'new' phenomenon of blogging about babies? Who, other than grandparents, can possibly find them of interest? Inevitably, in the USA, there are doctoral theses being written using words such as 'empowerment'. "It's a pretty powerful thing for a lot of women and, it would seem, for a lot of men too."
Jolly good, but I won't bother to read them and neither will the Diamond Geezer.
He, and probably you, won't be interested in what I didn't have for breakfast this morning. You also won't be interested to know that Charlton have made their best start to a Premiership season EVER or that a Charlton player, the "Wayne Rooney-like Eniola Aluko" has just played her first game for England. She's probably watched Bend It Like Beckham, which I've got a pirated DVD of and think it's a really nice film. As do these 133 reviewers.
Thinking of films, I forgot to remind my loyal readers here to tune into Metro TV last Sunday evening so they could watch a film which was banned during the Soeharto years but as I've got a (legal) copy of it, bought at Carrefour in Jl. M.T. Haryono a few months ago, and wasn't going to watch it again so soon, I forget. Besides, I've also got the book, which was also banned.
I suppose I ought to tell you all about being a warden for the British Embassy here. I should, but what I'm really interested in, being of an inquisitive nature, is what is going on there. The Consul has written to tell me that he's been running round like a headless chicken lately dealing with consular cases, prisoners, and a drugs investigation ...
Right hand, left hand Reading in the Jakarta Post that "foreigners would be the targets" of a series of raids is not designed to reduce the stress levels of expats in Jakarta.
That this particular story is related to the residents of Taman Rasuna, a complex of apartments quite close to the Australian Embassy where the most recent bomb outrage occurred, is an additional worry. "We were shocked because they came to our apartments in the evening without prior information. They told us to just fill out the forms. They said they wanted to reregister all expatriates in the city," one of the foreign tenants said on Monday. However, it may be, according to the article, that the 'raids' took place in July. (So why report them today?)
There is no suggestion in the story that these raids are connected with the hunt for terrorists. Rather, it's "the policy of the Jakarta Population and Civil Registration Agency" which is implementing the recently "enacted Bylaw No. 4/2004 on Population and Civil Registration, which stipulates a number of new obligations for foreigners." These "obligations" include an additional I.D. card which would be issued upon receipt of a letter (From who? For how much?)
We expats, quite rightly, have little say in the framing of the rules and regulations which govern our lives. What would be nice, however, is to know what these restrictions and permits are. I've already commented on the reluctance of government officials to enlighten us.
If we have a work permit, sponsored by our employers, we will also have a KITAS (Temporary Stay Permit), a Surat Jalan (travel permit) book, a police registration book and possibly others. These involve annual visits to the Immigration Department (which has finally recognized that my fingerprints haven't changed between visits). I generally only hang on to my passport, which is hidden in a secure place, and a laminated scanned copy of my KITAS which I keep in my wallet.
The Immigration Department and the Ministry of Manpower have our details in that they have agreed to allow our positions to be filled by expats. There are, no doubt, other ministries involved.
Both semi-permanent residents and short stay visitors are also required to report to their local Rukun Tertangga (neighbourhood association); our details are then passed up the line to the Mayor's office, of which there are five in Jakarta - North, South, East, West and Central.
So, what is the real purpose of "re-registering" we expats. Surely it's not the reason given, that "thousands of foreigners in the city" .... have "violated their stay permits" or "that many foreigners used tourist visas to work in various sectors" ... such as "at karaoke clubs, discotheques or even as prostitutes."
Jakartass is not worried about any of this; I hate karaoke. Besides, I've rented the same house for over 16 years so I'm well-known locally. Also, in common with the vast majority of expats, I use agents to deal with the complexities of life here.
However, none of my colleagues nor I will be sanguine about this. Cynics and realists among us can only think of brown envelopes.
I was going to post something along the lines of Phew, Wot a Scorcher, but news that the Rock, Paper, Scissors World Championships will be held tomorrow, but in British Columbia, led me to seek other sports I could take part in this weekend.
Unfortunately, the World Gurning Championships were last weekend. I have a reputation for sticking my head through toilet seats and making wretched faces and retching noises, so I fancied myself (as no-one else can) for that one.
I'm not sure if the Extreme Ironing Championships are still being held, but I think 'Er Indoors would do well in that one judging by the short shrift irons have in Jakartass Towers.
I could quite easily join the Car Free Day in Jakarta tomorrow as I don't have a car. But I don't have a bicycle either, so, much as I applaud the optimism of those urging the construction of Bike Lanes, I think I'll while away the weekend by thinking of a few more activities which are sorely needed here.
Find the Footpath immediately springs to mind. There could also be a variation on Pied Piper called Catch The Corruptors.
If you can suggest a Jakarta-based X-Treme Sport, based on the most popular suggestion in a Readers' Poll, I'll give away, FREE, a .zip file of my archives. They really are peculier.
Bye-Bye Akbar The Swanker says "You can add the name Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to the pantheon of misfits, megalomaniacs and kleptocrats that have taken residence in Merdeka Palace as President of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia."
I don't necessarily agree with that; the 'people' have spoken and SBY will be the first President to have received both a popular mandate and an education. Whether he can think for himself has yet to be proved.
The names being touted for SBY's Cabinet show a few acceptable 'reformist' characters, such as the maverick Kwik Kian Gie, currently Megawati's National Development Planning Minister. "I'm not a cow to trade nor a goat to be told what to do by Akbar and Mega. I will oblige provided the order makes sense." In other words, he is not a military man and as an added bonus he has often been a thorn in the side of Mega's husband who seemed to enjoy the spoils of being First Husband.
What is a worry is the number of (ex) army personnel lining up for a similar dip in the trough. The president-in-waiting has said his ministers must be capable, experienced and loyal to the state. Reformers and investors are hoping he will add professionalism, integrity and courage to the list of criteria.
What is better to note is that the coalition of Akbar Tanjung's Golkar and Mega's PDI-P is rapidly collapsing. This is far from being a rainbow coalition; the pot of gold is disappearing fast, much to Akbar's disappointment. His dreams are fading fast as the opportunist rats leave his sinking ship so he'll have to live off the ill-gotten gains acquired as a Soeharto acolyte.
Myrick has an analysis I can only agree with. As he says, When a former dictatorial ruling party loses its dictator, it generally has little to hold it together except for the prospect of keeping power as a united front. If it is unable to do that, then it loses its reason for existence. Akbar only seemed to exist for himself; he won't, therefore, be missed.
Jolly good, but one can only hope that the bureaucracy can adapt quickly. Not so long ago, their livelihoods depended on loyalty to Golkar and Akbar. Whither loyalty now?
Blogshares Can any of my readers tell me how come someone owns shares in my blog?
They have appreciated in value 18.9% in the past month, which I presume is a good thing. But what does it mean?
If you can't help, then I'll call Kwik Kian Gie, though I suspect he'll be too busy to reply.
And the lamb shall lie down with the tiger Diamond Geezer has given us another list, this time of popular boy's names in the UK. I was pleased that neither of my sons' names are featured. I explored the statistics further to check whether I'm the one and only Jakartass ~ I am, you'll be pleased to know, and spotted a link to the UK Slaughter Statistics. Thinking about accidents with carving knives, buses and battering irons, to my horror, bearing in mind that I'm an avowed vegetarian, I discovered that these are statistics relating to the slaughter of animals for dinner plates, rather than the Tally Ho fraternity.
This sent me scurrying back to the Guardian Weekly which carried a very succinct article by John Vidal which reinforced my reason for being a non-meat eater. "Western diets, which depend largely on meat, are already putting great pressures on the environment. Meat-eaters consume the equivalent of about 5,000 litres of water a day compared to the 1,000-2,000 litres used by people on vegetarian diets in developing countries. All that water has to come from somewhere."
Well, it isn't coming from here. Jakarta has been dry as a dog's bone for the past few weeks, not quite the drought of 97-98 but enough to cover everything with a fine layer of dust. High temperatures and hacking coughs are the order of the day.
Not all animals are killed for their meat. It is estimated that there are only 500 Sumatran tigers left in the wild, a number being diminished at the rate of 50 a year. It is good, therefore, to read about Debbie Martyr who has been working in Central Sumatra since 1998 to stop the poachers. I'll be up that way at Xmas, staying at the yet-to-be-officially-opened Hotel Rimbo, which means Jungle Hotel. A tiger has been spotted up there; it is part of the local community.
So will we be.
Blog off 2 The problem with the Blogger template is that apostrophes end up as question marks, even in the comments section. The following is a good demonstration of the need for clarity of thought, pre-planning and checking one's writing before publishing it. Not doing so is tantamount to declaring that you're a right berk.
(The following italicisation is mine.)
Can?t seem to shake me out of your system yet? Hell hath no fury like an expat in the third world scorned! And don?t tell me ? you employ servants over there for less than I give my 10 year old son each month in pocket money? Wouldn?t that be tantamount to paying slave wages in Old Blighty? Posted by Mr. Anonymous to Jakartass at 9/23/2004 02:09:12 PM
If Mr. Anonymous had bothered to read the rest of the post he's commenting on, he might have understood that my salary does not support a "fat expat" lifestyle, though it does support quite a few of my Indonesian family. So, there's no pembantu (maid) currently employed; if there were, I'd probably be supporting members of her family as well.
My Guardian Angel Well, well, well. I'm honoured, chuffed, gob-smacked and over the moon. Words fail me (which should please Mr. Anonymous).
I was curious to know why my counter had suddenly revved up; I thought it was the eloquence of my writing with its witty insights but I now owe a debt of gratitude to the Friskodude for letting me know that The Guardian has blogged this blog, here.
Peaks in my readership usually occur when I post something about Charlton, so maybe I can give added zest by pointing out that my favourite Premiership club narrowly failed to get beaten last night by Grimsby Town of League Two, which used to be known as the 4th Division.
Talking of football, the late Brian Clough was always worth a quote or six. On being remembered, he said, "I want no epitaphs of profound history and all that type of thing. I contributed. I would hope they would say that, and I would hope somebody liked me."
Nice one, Brian, and I hope that Jakartass is viewed in the same light.
All I can contribute is the voice of an expat at street level. I'm not marooned in a high-priced high-rise apartment surrounded by imported furnishings with extra security at the gate, and neither are the vast majority of my friends and colleagues. Little that I jot down here is newsworthy but I hope it reflects our views; I am also pleased to see my thoughts and themes occasionally echoed in the Jakarta Post and elsewhere. For example, "there is ... much that is unknown about (SBY)" says the New York Times. I wrote that "he is characterless".
New readers to Jakartass may not see the host of links I've put on the right which are of interest to those concerned with Indonesia. If you are using Internet Explorer, the links have drifted to the bottom and look a right mess. I recommend that you try Mozilla's Firefox. Blogger can't help me fix the problem: "This may be a problem specific to the code you have in your template. Currently, Blogger Support does not support questions regarding customized template code or CSS/HTML in general." That doesn't help me; it's a Blogger template!
I was going to ramble on, but our kid is contributing diseases to the household, so I'll return to the guardianship of this blog tomorrow.
Exclusive - SBY Wins So, the polls were free and fair according to the US, which knows all about the democratic process. "Around 90 percent of voters said they believed their vote's secrecy was guaranteed and only 3.3 percent said they had been intimidated."
Only 3.3 percent?? According to my calculations, that's about 3 million voters! Don't believe everything you believe in instant polls. Or the links I give you.
Is it going to make any difference to our lives? I doubt it. Mega will retain her usual enigmatic and eloquent silence, at least until October 5th when what we all know to be the result becomes official. She'll probably carry on sulking even then. I think that is the reason that her grand coalition of PDI-P and Golkar have already decided to become the official opposition. "We are committed to strengthen the position and the role of our parties in the House," said Golkar Party chief, Akbar Tandjung. Actually, his reputation as a Soeharto acolyte and corrupt politician who wanted Mega to win so he could be the President after next is probably what cost her the election. She should have chosen her friends more carefully.
He probably wants to make the government impotent as well, but the people have spoken loudly and clearly. It is time for a change.
So, is SBY going to be a breath of fresh air? Hardly. SBY is known to prefer air conditioning to the great outdoors. He may have the support of the US, Australia and the world, but the Acehnese rebels expect him to continue military operations against them. I hope they're wrong; after all, as Megawati's Security Minister he was instrumental in arranging the internationally mediated peace talks that resulted in a six-month cease-fire in 2003. As he is a retired army general, with the support of other generals, there probably won't be any new faces or fresh mindsets in his cabinet.
The people have made their choice. We must all live with the consequences. I'm hopeful that the growing political maturity in the nation will effect a more community minded and managed country. There is a massive tolerance of differences; this is the main pleasure of living here. Isolated instances of genocidal ignoramuses cannot destroy all the underlying optimism of a better life for us all.
And on that note of idealistic hogwash, I'd like to record that this is the 150th (official) post by Jakartass. I think I'll have a tot of duty-free to celebrate my perseverance and the tolerance of my readers. Thank you all and one.
Finally, all Brits, and I mean all and not just lovers of football, will feel a sense of loss at the passing of Brian Clough. "He was a mixture of arrogance and initiative, bombast and generosity, intransigence and self-doubt."
... staying at home and sipping lemonade on the terrace, strolling on the beach, watching daytime TV, for writing blogs, and, oh yes, I almost forgot, for voting.
At least there is a choice. Not between candidates admittedly, as there's little difference between them. Neither have followed the newly formulated rules. It is reported that the incumbent President Megawati's coalition, which includes Golkar, formerly Soeharto's power base, have contrived the most irregularities, but given that SBY is part of the entrenched political elite, albeit with a better singing voice, if I had the vote, I wouldn't use it.
The Jakarta Post editorial today, which I can't find online, advocates a vote against the candidate you like the least. An interesting viewpoint. If Megawati was as detestable as Bush, then I would certainly vote for SBY in order to keep her out. Unfortunately, he seems to be as characterless as Kerry.
Less corruption, better education, fewer terrorists and more dangdut. Identical political platforms. Heads or tails? Actually, the choice is as lightweight as the alloy coins used by supermarkets in place of sweets: jasmine flower or garuda (the state symbol).
'Er indoors is out there with our kid tossing her coin as I tap this out.
Who will win? If you're really agog, log on to the computerized count here.
Me? I've got XTC and a litre of lemonade to keep me happy.
Update 1 (2.30pm)
Our kid and I have just returned from serving as International Observers at the local polling stations. I've reported the following results to 'er indoors:
Mega: 145 (19%)
SBY: 767 (77%)
Spoiled papers and my bad arithmetic account for the rest.
What makes this particular set of results interesting, however, is that many families in this area are dependent on the employment at a catering company owned by a local bigwig in PKS (the Prosperous Justice Party). PKS endorsed the candidacy of SBY.
Don't tell anyone, please, as 'er indoors asked me to keep this bit of largesse secret.
It's a quiet day today. Apart from the occasional passing car, noise is restricted to the wind chimes wafting in the breeze. 'Er indoors isn't too happy, though, as there aren't any vegetable sellers passing by.
One reason is that lots of folk have returned to their 'hometowns' in order to vote in tomorrow's Presidential Election but the main reason is that our back street is partially blocked off with a polling station being readied. This should guarantee another quiet day tomorrow until 1pm when the polling finishes. I'll be donning my official International Observer garb of T-shirt and shorts.
Hopefully tomorrow will allow me lots more logging on time to my ISP as businesses will be shut. But I can't blame Telkom for not being able to follow Charlton's failure to lose yesterday. Apparently it was a good performance, comparatively speaking, but I really did want to hear the live commentary. It couldn't be heard in Derby either.
I've had some 'complaints' that my links to the right aren't visible. I presume that these readers are still using Internet Explorer because, when I do, the links can be found floating at the bottom of this page. My recommendation is to use Mozilla Firefox. What I like about it is its tabs feature and that it seems to block all those nasty Trojan programmes that I.E. seem to allow.
I've written to Blogger asking for advice, lines of code or whatever it takes to fix this problem.
Those of you who can see my links will notice occasional changes as I play around with the template. Both Google and Amazon (UK) have 'allowed' me to add their ads, but I've yet to see them in the visual display I'd prefer. A chance to earn a few bucks is not to be scorned, but that isn't why I'm blogging.
For the time being, I'm making do with a permanent riposte to Mr. Anonymous who thinks, wrongly, I have a fat expat salary, but is right in that I favour less inequality in the world.
Who cares ...? Hitler walks into the meeting room and turns to his trusted staff... "I want you to organise the execution of 10,000 Jews and 10,000 hedgehogs."
Everyone looks around the table and after a long silence, Goering pipes up, "Mein Fuhrer, why do you want to kill 10,000 hedgehogs?"
Hitler smiles and turns to the rest of the table, "You see, no one cares about the Jews."
I am indebted, once again, to b3ta for today's inspiration.
Monday will be one of Indonesia's most historic days, ever. The first direct election of the President of one of the world's most populous countries will take place. This is viewed in some quarters, well in Iraq anyway, as a good thing. Here, one wonders if anyone but the politicians are bothered.
Although so-called public opinion polls predict an SBY win by a landslide, the Mega forces are consolidating their hold on the legislative bodies. Here in Jakarta, despite having the majority of elected councillors, the PKS (Prosperous Justice Faction) candidate for the crucial Speaker post lost to Councillor Ade Surapriatna of the Golkar Party who, "two days prior to the election, ... had promised that he would increase the councillors' monthly salaries and upgrade facilities for them, including apartments."
After the 'secret' vote, the shipping magnate said, "I don't want to hear councillors taking more criticism (from the public) than the executive branch of the administration. It is our duty to monitor the performance of the executive, not to be monitored by the public."
Not the public?? Is he talking about the same public who exercised their newly won democratic right to choose their representatives?
'Er indoors says, "It's not fair."
Jakartass says it's a blatant rip-off.
So sue us.
If it would do any good, I'd launch into a rant at this point. But what would that achieve?
So I'll rave instead.
In their latest package of goodies, my ever-reliable regular mail order dispenser of aural delights, Gema Records, included XTC's Apple Venus Volume 2 (aka Wasp Star).
How many bands do you sing along to? On first listening? These songs are impossibly catchy. Goddam, I do love this band and this album is one of their finest. I needed the healthy boost of a feelgood factor after that too long a period of under-employment.
I'm not alone in my raving.
Cibula says, he rocks back and forth, idiot grin on his weatherbeaten visage.
John Metzger can't live without it. "Wasp Star finds the band returning to more familiar ground and adding yet another fine album to their outstanding catalog."
(Nearly) all here say: Great songwriting, great performances, nothing experimental, nothing groundbreaking, not their best, just great toe-tapping, head-bobbing XTC songs, every one.
Since my return from Singgers, Jakartass Towers have reverberated to XTC's complete oeuvre.
Now back to reality.
The following public service announcement is not issued by the Jakarta City Council.
"We're developing a host of innovative projects to make ... THE place to work, live and play.
For more information about our ground breaking approach to city management and how you can get involved visit (this site)".
It's quite a large download, but at least it shows that somewhere there are some local politicians who care.
And that some politicians have really weird imaginations.
I wanna be a real man I don't have big feet; it's just that Indonesians have small ones.
That's why I generally buy my footwear in Singapore. The Nikes there usually have a label which states Made In Indonesia, but that's another story. This time, due to exceptional, extenuating circumstances, I didn't have time for any shopping so folks may soon see me wandering around in bare feet.
What I really want is a pair of comfortable trainers for navigating Jakarta's footpaths and I now know exactly what I want. "With UK Gear, the army yesterday launched the PT-03, a running shoe that is named after its 'physical training' and proudly bears the insignia of the British army on its tongue." Of course, these fashion accessories are not actually made in the UK, but in Vietnam. However, the army believes that this venture will "exploit its image and reputation."
As a sartorially elegant gentleman I have at various times sported army surplus gear. I had a Czechoslovakian army greatcoat at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival; it kept me warm as I slept through Jimi Hendrix's last live performance. Also in the '70s, my favourite jacket, a perfect fit and bought at a jumble sale, was ex-RAF. One day, travelling along the North Wales coast on a rural train with just 2 or 3 carriages, a bunch of squaddies got on. I was the highest ranking officer on board. My then wife then gave the jacket to boy scouts collecting for another jumble sale. Our divorce followed shortly thereafter.
Of course, real men don't have to enlist. They can play football, but not if you're a Charlton player at present. Too many of our gutsy players have retired hurt or gone elsewhere like Paolo di Canio who, in just one season, endeared himself to the Valley faithful. That he took a 70% pay cut to return to Italy and Lazio, mainly because his family feel more at home there, was sad for we Addicks, but acceptable. That he remains a hero to us can be seen from this story.
A British player I'd love to see, or read about, in a Charlton strip is the aptly-named Robbie Savage who received, to everyone's surprise, his first ever red card playing for Wales against Northern Ireland. Savage's distress at seeing red, and thereby being barred from next month's World Cup qualifier against England, is apparently so great that he is considering launching a landmark legal case.
Mind your 'pees' and 'effs' Getting to Singapore was an adventure, if new experiences can be described as such.
$35 is a remarkably low fare for a flight lasting about an hour and a half, so I really mustn't grumble. The check-in guy gave me my favourite seat, the one with a window and extra legroom because it's by the emergency exit. I settled in, looked for an in-flight magazine, but Jatayu only bother with a catalogue of tat with their logo on.
But then an officious stewardess insisted that I move. Why? Because I wear glasses and wouldn't, therefore, be able to open the emergency exit door, a complicated matter of moving one catch up and another one down. Well, I wasn't going to make a fuss, so I swapped places and watched as my replacement sat in my place and put on a pair of glasses to read the obligatory guide to opening doors. He then proceeded to pray as we taxied and took off. I don't think he had flown much before.
I read the stewardess' name tag: TRAINEE.
I jumped into a taxi as soon as we'd disembarked. A short distance down the road, the middle-aged driver decided to practice his English.
"Mister has big penis?"
"I like ... ", pointing to my groin and making slurping noises.
"Shut up and get me to the port, pronto," I said in my best bahasa.
As we approached the entrance, he turned to me and said quickly, "Onefousandfarkin".
"Eh? Do what?"
He said it again, slower.
Oh, Rp.1,000 for parking.
My Singapore itinerary was somewhat pre-determined by the need to spend time with some friends. She has just had massive surgery and they both have to come to terms with an uncertain future. P., on 'exceptional leave' needed a few pints and a chance to talk whilst caring for Rachel aged eighteen months.
Clarke Quay is the place for a toddler, pedestrianised, lots of fascinating shops with goodies to touch and the occasional Thomas the Tank Engine ride. And for Dads at play, there is Brewerkz, a pub with real beer. I wholeheartedly recommend a pint or two of their IPA. Rachel also enjoyed my Caesar Salad, but I ended up with her helium-filled balloon.
And so my visa was collected without complications and I made my way to Changi Airport where the only flight with available seats was Singapore Airlines SQ261. Pricey, but absolutely no hassle, just like Singapore in fact.
Jakartans visiting there can only marvel at the way motorists give way to pedestrians and pedestrians will marvel at the wide sidewalks/pavements. And I can only wish for the ease of Internet access, especially at each departure gate of the airport. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to post this; I'd spent my last remaining minutes and Singapore dollars in the Duty Free.
Still, it was nice to get home, to distribute the oleh-oleh to 'er indoors and our kid. It wasn't nice to download the 100 odd spam e-mails stockpiled by Indosat or to read the following comment: As you are against inequalities of wealth, would you be prepared to receive the average Indonesian salary as opposed to your fat expat salary? Posted by Anonymous to Jakartass at 9/14/2004 03:36:21 PM
You know who you are 'Anonymous', but you obviously don't know me. I have never received a 'fat' salary, a house, 'hardship' allowances (including car, driver and sundry servants), membership of executive clubs etc. etc. Read my archives for the fuller picture of where I stand. And do me and the Jakartass readers the courtesy of making it possible to respond openly.
Hasta la visa Today is a regular occurrence. We expats have to depart these shores every so often in order to renew or change those visas which give us permission to live, work and play in Indonesia, and I'm going to Singapore tomorrow.
The rules and ruses are complicated and I'm certainly not going to explain them here, mainly because I don't understand them. As an immigration official at Soekarno-Hatta airport told me some years ago, he knew the rules but wasn't allowed to tell me and, by the way, could I bring him a present back from Changi airport.
I'm going to take a domestic flight to Batam, and then catch the ferry. The main reason is that I will have to pay 'only' c.$50 fiscal (departure tax) because I'm leaving by sea, rather than twice that for an international flight departure. All departees are currently liable for this, but we expats also have to obtain an exit permit, another expensive on-cost. Unfortunately, the abolition of fiscal, widely touted by the current government, won't happen until next year, at the earliest. If then.
However, I also like this slower route because it is just that, slower. Having time to travel makes the journey worthwhile. Looking back one can understand better where one has been. Looking forward, one can anticipate the adventures that lie ahead. Although 'travel' is a variant of 'travail', I have rarely found a journey to be hard work. Physically uncomfortable, maybe, but a measure of stoicism overcomes that.
I've always enjoyed good travel writing, but rarely enjoyed TV documentaries such as Around The World In A Mini Moke. This must be because with a book, one can pause, inwardly digest and invoke mental, as opposed to visual, images. A Writer's World: Travels 1950-2000 by Jan Morris was published last year. The Guardian says of it, "In a world of digital television, videophones, low-cost airlines, web logs and travel supplements, Jan Morris will be one of the last people entrusted to be our eyes and ears over such a span of distance and time."
I include this because I'm beginning to wonder if the madness in the world today isn't largely due to the instant impact of our digital world. For a TV critic forced to watch all scenes of horror as they happen, it is horrible in the true sense of the word. Except, we too are vultures. We devour the images served up by the editors and producers. The only selectivity we have relates to the ability to surf the channels. Or to switch off.
Peter Conrad, in today's Observer, commenting on the works of Goya and Picasso's Guernica, writes, Between the event and the representation there was, traditionally, a pause for thought. The images that commemorated such disasters, or the stories told about them, consciously took sides and pointed morals. They did so in retrospect, reviving a moment from the past in order to ponder its significance. Today, the technologies of news-gathering have accelerated the cycle and garbled it; the event is interpreted for us while we're watching it happen, and the interpreters are participants.
So what do I do with the megabyte-worth of photographs I've been sent which show the scenes of utter devastation in Jl. Rasuna Said? Why are there crowds of onlookers? Morbid curiosity is one answer, a "thank-God-it-wasn't-me" feeling, but I can't be sure that thrill-seekers such as these know what it is to lose a loved one. It is an intense, truly personal emotion which few can articulate.
In his book This I Believe, Carlos Fuentes writes movingly "of the pleasures and privileges of parenthood and the devastating sorrow inflicted by the illness and death of his talented young son."
What joy it was to learn that Carlos, gifted with an intuition that was both wonderful and terrible, spent the last evening of his existence, in Puerto Vallarta, phoning all his friends, all over the world, telling them about his plans to finish his movie, publish his book of poems, exhibit his artwork, telling them he was happy, strong, full of creativity, in love with his girlfriend Yvette.
Isabel Allende suffered similar anguish and wrote whilst her daughter, Paula, aged 28 lay in a terminal coma following an acute attack of porphyria disease. As a result of Paula's death, Isabel Allende went into temporary seclusion in her California home. And yet, despite the pain, Allende soon returned to her work. She was unwilling to let death defeat the gift of life.
Sacramental light and unfathomable darkness. I am everything that exists, I am in every leaf of the forest, in every drop of the dew, in every particle of ash carried by the stream, I am Paula and I am also Isabel, I am nothing and all other things in this life and other lives, immortal. Goodspeed Paula woman. Welcome, Paula Spirit. (Allende, 1995:330)
Their thoughts give us thoughts; we can pause, bookmark and assimilate at our own pace.
Enough of these wanderings and on with my packing. I'll be back here no later than Wednesday.
Generation of Swine This title has been used before, but I'm sure Hunter S. Thompson won't mind.
What I really want to know is whether he blogs. If not, why not? You see, "gonzo journalism, of which Hunter S. has been a prime exponent, is characterized by the use of quotes, sarcasm, humour, exaggeration, and profanity."
Generation of Swine is my current re-read, mainly because I haven't got anything new. It was sitting on my desk yesterday and an Indonesian colleague with good English, and it should be because she teaches it, asked if 'swine' meant pigs. Which, of course, it does, as well as hogs, boars, porkers or "any of a family of omnivorous, artiodactylous mammals with a bristly coat and elongated, flexible snout." (Websters)
It also means "a vicious, contemptible or disgusting person."
And that's enough sacrilegiousness, profanity and sarcasm for one day.
Further to the above, I've just found a review by Paul Theroux of Hunter S's Kingdom of Fear, published last year. Paul writes the following:
"Last year, well before the Iraq war, Thompson wrote: "We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world - a nation of bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not just whores for power and oil, but killer whores with hate and fear in our hearts. We are human scum, and that is how history will judge us. George W Bush does not speak for me or my son or my mother or my friends or the people I respect in this world."
That is included in his new book, along with another prescient piece, written on September 12 2001, in which he predicted "a religious war, a sort of Christian jihad, fuelled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerrilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines. We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once."
Two out of three ain't bad.
And on a totally different matter, I'd like to wish many felicitations and congratulations to the Diamond Geezer in London. On Thursday his blog was two years old and he celebrated his 40th birthday, or maybe not according to his calculator.
I've written to him offline several times to express my awe at his consistency of insight, visual sense and general competency with the Blogger templates.
There are several London-specific blogs, but none for Jakarta. It is with great pleasure, therefore, that I'm pleased to prematurely announce that the Reveller, Jave Jive and Jakartass hope to provide just that.
If there are any other bloggers here (with reasonably good English) who would like to join us, please do drop us a line through our comments or emails.
Who knows, but we might be able to make a difference to the shitty.
Today's lesson is taken from ...
Obviously, the main topic of conversation here has been yesterday's bombing.
Judging by the useful round-up of links at East Meets Westerner, the Australians seem to have taken this personally. I'm not so sure that they were singled out specifically and feel that the location of their embassy made it an easier target than, say, the British Embassy which is set further back from the road, with a wider buffer zone.
As always, we Brits remain somewhat sanguine, if you get my meaning. The following is the text of an email sent out today to All Wardens and British Business Liaison Group
You will be relieved to hear that we have no reports of British casualties from the bomb outside the Australian Embassy earlier today. (So that's all right then??) We will continue to review the security situation. Please continue to monitor the FCO travel advice at www.fco.gov.uk.
09 September 2004
The Foreign Office advisory today includes the following:
* There was a large explosion outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta on 9 September, killing at least nine people.
* We continue to receive reports that terrorists in Indonesia are planning further attacks on Westerners and Western interests. They have shown in previous attacks, like the attack on the Australian Embassy and the Bali bombings, that they have the means and the motivation to carry out successful attacks.
* Penalties for illegal drug importation and use are severe and can include the death penalty.
* We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.
There is more detail, but I wonder about the order of the above. What's the relevance of the warning about drug importation in this section?
Other significant news this week related to the New Order regime of Soeharto has obviously received lesser prominence.
Firstly, the death from of natural causes was reported on Wednesday night of former military chief, Gen. (ret) Andi Mohamad Jusuf, who led the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) between 1978 and 1983.
His death has also likely buried the truth behind the disputed 'Letter of 11 March', popularly known as Supersemar, which marked the historic transition of power from then president Sukarno to then Maj. Gen. Soeharto, back in 1967. Jusuf was one of three generals assigned by Soeharto to meet Sukarno.
Scholars have alleged that Soeharto had drawn up the letter which, in dubious language, transferred the country's authority to Soeharto and sent the messengers, Gen. Jusuf and two other generals, Amir Machmud and Basuki Rachmat (who have also since died), to force Sukarno to sign it. The Army and Soeharto have firmly denied 'the alleged coup' for years. As the whereabouts of the Supersemar remain a mystery, it is doubtful that the truth will ever be known.
Another death, probably also from natural causes, is more tragic. Outspoken rights campaigner Munir, 38, died onboard a flight to the Netherlands on Tuesday morning, to the shock of many who knew him as 'the voice of the voiceless'.
Sydney is now based in Singapore. Regarding yesterday's bombing she could well say "I told you so" as she has long been one of the world's authorities on the activities of the probable perpetrators, Jemaah Islamiah (J.I.) As she wrote in the Far Eastern Economic Review on December 19th 2002, "Indonesian terrorism is clearly bigger than we thought and there are more little groups than we thought. It covers the entire country - that is the scary thing"
Scary maybe, but it's good to know that it hasn't deterred tourists to Bali, both Australian and British.
Tomorrow I have to collect various payments around town. I hope, a strangely callous word, to see for myself how Jakarta is coping.
And finally, I must thank those of you who have written to express your thoughts. They are most welcome, but I am merely a bystander in all this. Others, more innocent than I, are the ones who must be thought of.
Terrorists are misguided. In a world without inequalities of wealth, with opportunities to live and think freely, there would be little need for revolutionary heroes.
I'm a free agent, I can protest. This must be freedom, I must be happy ...
- R. Wyatt, 'Born Again Cretin'
I remain an unashamed idealist; I do not believe in original sin. Rather, there is good in all of us.
Just another day in Paradise This was to be a day to sort out last minute details of next week's visa run to Singapore because I have a long working day tomorrow and next Monday is a public holiday, Isra Mi'raj Nabi Muhammad (the prophet Muhammed's birthday).
My day started off with an oversleep, which meant that I was still at home when I heard I heard a slight 'boom' and thought I felt a tremor. Having witnessed bomb blasts in Belfast and London, it stirred vague memories, but I didn't make the direct connection and carried on with my belated preparations.
I rang one of last month's paymasters to confirm that there was some cash awaiting me. It was but "there's been a bomb in the business district" they said. Oh. On with the TV to hear that the Sampoerna Plaza in Jl. Rasuna Said was the recipient.
I telephoned my current paymasters to say that, due to expected resultant traffic jams, I didn't think I'd be able to pass by to collect the paperwork necessary for the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore. By then, via the Australian Consul in Medan, they'd heard that the bomb was in fact at the Australian Embassy opposite the Sampoerna Plaza.
The TV news vacillated, but the Jakarta Post confirmed this.
Yesterday the British musician, Robert Wyatt, acclaimed for his powerful, politically charged but wry songs, told how one of the stand-out tracks on his celebrated new album, Cuckooland, was inspired by an article in the Guardian about a boy born as the bombs began to fall at the start of the first Gulf war.
Wyatt's wife and writing partner, Alfreda (Alfie) Benge, wrote the lyrics for Lullaby to Hamza after being moved by the story of Hamza al-Gahnem, who spent the first 40 days of his life being nursed in an underground shelter.
Do read the full story.
Lullaby for Hamza
When bombers bomb again,
I need your lullaby.
Fires are burning,
The nightmare's begun.
The world is dark again,
I need your lullaby.
Sleep has gone.
Night is long again.
Sing me your song.
Let me sleep.
Bring me peace.
When bombers bomb again,
we'll need your lullaby.
Houses burn again.
Sing songs to soothe them,
to dry their tears,
to drown the screams of war.
The world's gone wrong again,
I need your lullaby.
Night is long.
and sleep's just a dream.
Sing your song.
Stay close to me.
Sing to me.
The world is dark again,
I need your lullaby.
Sleep has gone.
Night is much too long again.
If a picture told a thousand words ...
... why say them? I shouldn't be too flippant about art or visitors to the Jakartass Galleri may make disparaging remarks about my artistic legacy to the nation.
Like most of my readers, "I know what I like". A gaggle of art critics trying to render visual pleasantries in abstruse analyses made impenetrable through a dip into a thesaurus are not, for me, part of the bigger picture. We art lovers prefer comics and cartoons. 'Keep it simple, stupid' is my motto.
So the chance for visitors to Tate Britain in the Tate Gallery, or to the gallery's website, to write their own label for any painting on display was too good to miss. All the following labels needed was the common touch and just a little editing (my italics). As you all know, Jakartass is nothing if not common.
Gilman was a member of the Camden Town group of artists who painted images of urban life. This work was painted from a detailed drawing made on the spot during a family visit to Leeds.
The vibrant, working-class life of the market provided subject matter for several Camden Town painters and their wives. They were influenced by the Impressionists and their followers such as Van Gogh, Van der Plus and Gucci. This can be seen here in the strong colours and use of small, regular brushmarks. These give the painting a tight structure which is complemented by the housewives in the foreground haggling over the price of onions and carefully counting their pennies.
Beulah i 1971
William Tucker born 1935
William Tucker said the essential quality of sculpture was 'visibility'. By this he meant not simply that a work could be seen, but that it should actively seek to 'meet, attract and hold our sight'. In order to achieve this, Tucker combined apparent simplicity with a complexity that was only gradually revealed, generally in the morning after. In the 1970s, his works were described as 'impossible objects', since they were extremely difficult to hold accurately in the memory despite their simplicity. Beulah i is a reminder of the temporary nature of a magnum of Dom Perignon. Viewers are made aware of their own perceptual efforts to understand the form and structure of the night before.
Illustrator of the month Just a short post as I'm having the devil's own job with connections tonight.
My mate Derek Bacon, a former expat here and author of Culture Shock - Jakarta (which needs a major update, Del), has been named Ïllustrator of the Month by some organisation I've never heard of.
A bird in the hand...
... is worth two bushes.
I trust very few politicians, and Bush, a reckless, irresponsible drunk, is not one of those, so I do like to see their debunking.
Many years ago, I had a garden gnome stolen from its 'gnome home' in the foot-scraper recess by the front door. I reported this to the local police who told me, "You know, sir, that's the commonest crime in Clapham."
I report this because I've just discovered a gnome which few would want to steal, although it is a big seller in the States. Each is hand painted on top of a very sturdy ceramic body. Perfect for display inside as well as outdoors. Because these gnomes are made one at a time, the paint might be slightly different on each one. Place an order now and your George W. Bush Yard Gnome will be shipped right to you.
I'd like to think that the Clowns 4 Christ were similarly sceptical if it wasn't for their mission and its implied cultural insensitivity.
We are a Christ Centered, Bible believing Ministry and our goal is to spread the Gospel through our unique clown performance in the foreign mission field (my de-italicisation) as well as in local churches here in the United States. In addition to our performance ability we also teach a professional level of clowning to all Christian clowns as well as secular clowns.
Luckily, there wasn't anything they could teach Paul Newman.
Far better the Pleasure Boat Captains of Truth.
"George W. Bush says he gave up drinking in 1986. That's a lie. I remember a night back in 1980 when he gave up drinking after only three or four beers. I asked if everything was okay, and he nodded. Another lie, because then he threw up all over the deck. When I asked him to help clean it up the next morning, he started crying so hard that I figured, just forget it."
-- Wilbur Buckley, Skipper, S.S. Xanadu
Tanks for the memory This is the season for weddings in Indonesia. Festivities are best completed before the fasting month of Lebaran, or Ramadhan, which starts next month. Unlike the scenes portrayed in Hugh Grant films, weddings here are decorous affairs, not least because most guests skip the mosque or church service and head straight for the reception.
Batik shirts are de rigueur for men and their spouses generally dress up in their 'traditional' finery and their most glittery gold. Upon arrival, after signing the guest book with a coloured felt tip pen, an envelope containing as much as seems appropriate is slipped into a box in a process similar to local elections. One nods, smiles and shakes hands with the guards or maids of honour at the doorway and then joins an exceedingly long line in order to pay homage to the inner circle of the bride and groom arranged in a row on a raised dais at the far end of the hall.
This formal processing has its separate protocol, which I invariably get wrong. The bride's father and mother, or matron of honour, are the first to be greeted. Their hands are extended as in Christian prayer, but forwards. They, the hands, part slightly and the guests slip their right hand in between whilst placing the left on the outside over the outside hand of the greeter. I either cover both hands or slip both into the sandwich.
Next in line are the groom and bride followed by the other set of parents. Brothers and sisters may also be on display. A few greetings are exchanged, such as Selamat bahagia ~ Wishing you happiness, and then you leave the dais, hopefully without tripping over. There's usually a photographer on hand if you do. Once these formalities are complete, there's a mad dash for the food. Inveterate guests can manage three or four weddings in an evening, thus cutting down on food bills.
I tend to be cynical about local weddings because I may be the token bule, invited to add a little colour (white) and perceived prestige to the event. But not last night. This was the wedding of the daughter of our next door neighbour, so virtually all the local community was there.
The venue was the grounds of the Museum Satria Mandala, the Armed Forces Museum, in Jalan Gatot Subroto. Inaugurated by the late President Soekarno in 1972, this museum was originally the home of Soekarno's fifth wife. It showcases the history of the Indonesian Armed Forces and its involvement in the fight for the nation's sovereignty. Among its collection are weapons, artillery, armors, military aircraft and uniforms, some dating back to 1945. Vivid dioramas provide more graphic illustration. History buffs might like to browse the library and check out the films in stock. It was not the Army Museum in Yogyakarta I linked to yesterday, but their website is still worth a visit.
We went with friends and neighbours, another mixed-marriage, so our kids could share the delights of the site and sights. Having navigated the greeting line, we looked down on an area with a discreetly lit mini-lake, fairy lights draped in the trees and encircled with tables laden with the food. Wow, we thought, an al fresco wedding. And, a genuine surprise this, wafting over the crowd was a selection of really classy jazz such as Johnny Hartman and Mark Murphy.
We paid our respects to the family, and to our kid who'd joined the end of the line. The catering was exemplary so I didn't make my usual inappropriate quip about troughs, the ice sculptures were pleasing in a Barbara Hepworth fashion and we stayed longer than usual.
As we left, our kids wanted to play with the weaponry on display and we realised that the car park is one of the largest open spaces in Jakarta. What a suitable venue we thought.
Jakartass wishes all newly-weds long and fruitful relationships.
Oohs and booze I have to go to a wedding this evening, so I think I'll just give a plug to b3ta and their occasionally very wonderful weekly newsletter. Actually, if we had broadband here, then I'm sure that I'd enjoy all the available Flash creations and music downloads submitted by the likes of thee and me, but I generally check out just a couple of links.
Today's newsletter has a couple of gems; one had me laughing out loud, but then I like sick jokes, and the other, which some folk may think vomit-worthy in its cuteness, had our kid oohing and aahing.
As I'm now suitably dashing in my batik shirt, I must dash off to the nuptuals which are being held in the Army Museum.(Eh?)
Who do you think Sen. Zell Miller was referring to in the following? "I have knocked on the door of this man's soul and found someone home, a God-fearing man with a good heart and a spine of tempered steel."
And there was more, lots more.
"He is not a slick talker but he is a straight shooter and, where I come from, deeds mean a lot more than words."
"Straight shooter"? Not according to former family friends of the Bush family. Apparently, George Junior was a drunken liability and probably never even touched a rifle when he was supposedly in the National Guard.
Another article in the Guardian quotes a survey which suggests that voters associate him with the downmarket Dunkin' Donuts while they think John Kerry is a smooth Starbucks man.
Inevitably that led to me conducting a similar survey of Indonesian voters' perceptions of the presidential candidates Megawati and SBY. The most creative minds were put to work and the unanimous opinion was that the candidates had no opinions and would not, nay, should not, be associated with any brand except, possibly for their own good, Ajinomoto, the flavour enhancer.
Further suggestions would be more than welcome.
*Res non verba (Deeds, not words) was the motto of my primary school, Charlton Manor. There's a photo here of a couple of lads who were still in the infant school when I left to go to grammar school.
Talking of Charlton, there are now so many fans who've dispensed with watching the matches in order to set up blogs, that I'm giving them a link on the right to a sub-page. I'm setting the list down here pro tem.
Binging without whinging I know that binge drinking is a serious social problem in the UK. I also know that drinking per se is not a cultural norm in predominantly Muslim countries such as Indonesia. That's why there have been studies there and the introduction of Bintang Zero here.
So what market is Jiguja, "the drink you drink after you drink", aiming to reach?
This is a quote from a leaflet dropped in my letter box today: As mixer or shot chaser, it helps you to enjoy your drinking session without losing control such as vomiting or passing out.
I expected 2 wake up and be bedridden all day with 1 huuuge hangover, but woke up feeling fine! There is hope 4 working and studying this year thanks 2 Jiguja! It works!
It takes the morning after out of the party, so you can party again...and again...and again.
Just 1 Jiguja @ 2am AMAZINGLY NEUTRALISES 2 days of 2000km travel and a 8 hour party. This is a first for me in my past 20 year social life. UNREAL.
It turns out that this is a "herbal drink originated from the fruit stem (eh?) of Jiguja tree that grow on Korean peninsula in the unpolluted high mountains."
And that explains everything. The Koreans have the largest expatriate community in Indonesia, generally taking advantage of the cheap labour market in order to exploit this country's resources. They're not a sociable bunch and generally live in apartments. Very few have inter-married Indonesians and those that do have been 'excommunicated'.
Group drinking is a social custom and keeping pace with your boss is a requirement if you want preferment; this is generally done in bars offering karaoke, many of which would be featured by the Reveller's website if westerners were welcome.
And if you think this sounds like sour grapes, it is. My recent enforced underemployment was the result of a bad korea move. I'm now recovering from that particular hangover without the aid of this particular Natural Herbal Beverage from the Green Nature.
Monkey business The discipline of blogging is such that we search for themes. Unlike Diamond Geezer who spent last month taking us on an admirable guided tour of Piccadilly, my approach seems to be more random. There rarely seems to be a common thread to my ramblings. Just occasionally, however, having waited long enough, like London buses, a number of sightings come along at the same time.
Today, my classes were discussing the pets they keep. Having determined that pets are animals (giraffes?), that we have in the house (rats?), are tame (chickens? rabbits?) and that we do not eat (crocodiles? Back in the Swinging Sixties I did know a guy in Chelsea who kept one in his bath and used to wheel it down King?s Road strapped to a pair of roller skates), students then owned up to an assortment of cats and catfish, dogs and dogfish, fish and a monkey.
The lad didn't know what kind of monkey it was or that it is illegal to keep endangered species at home.
When I got home I read the Jakarta Post and on page 8 found a well laid out, grammatically correct half page plea illustrated with a photo of an orangutan chained to a log. And this is what I read.
Is this any way to treat a close relative? The illegal orangutan trade begins with demand for them as pets.
Some think that possessing a rare or endangered animal is a status symbol, and business is big with dozens of orangutans abducted from the jungles of Kalimantan every month.
But to catch a baby orangutan, hunters must first murder its parents.
And the death toll spells genocide.
Freshly orphaned, the young orangutans are sent on a long and arduous journey to their final place of incarceration.
Even if we have not directly participated in this process, general apathy has allowed the species to rapidly decline in the wild, with extinction predicted as early as the year 2020.
Genetically we share 97.4% DNA with these gentle primates.
How does a difference of just 2.6% make us so cruel?
Visit www.primata.or.id to find out how you can change before it's too late.
So, I did and discovered that this is the website of the newish primate centre at Ragunan Zoo here in Jakarta. Zoos in general are not my favourite places, and Ragunan in particular is not a place for an expat to visit, especially at weekends. The locals are inclined to treat us as more interesting exhibits than the poor frustrated animals who have to spend their entire lives here, so, not having visited recently, I'll refrain from any comments about the centre.
However, this is a good website with lots of interesting information about the different primates indigenous to Indonesia. For example, I didn't know that the gibbons who regularly visit Hotel Rimbo where I'll be spending Xmas ~ whoopee, goody-goody gumdrops, are Hylobates Rafflei. It's that man Raffles again.
This sudden interest has arisen because Safari World in Bangkok has been holding kick-boxing tournaments involving 100 orangutans, supposedly victims of a smuggling racket from Indonesia.
Forestry officials from Jakarta say Safari World is involved in Indonesia's biggest ever case of orangutan smuggling, even though the zoo insists all its animals were acquired through the proper channels, or bred in captivity (although) conservationists are confident DNA tests will reveal if any animal was born in the wild.
Jakartass believes that contact sports involving deliberate blows to the head, such as boxing, are participated in by brain damaged people. If you're not when you start, then you are when you quit. Unfortunately, in my view spectators are no more intelligent and are merely looking for cheap thrills.
Trade in primates is instant greed, often coupled with the rape of the rainforests such as Leuser National Park in Aceh, North Sumatra. That groups in Indonesia are involved in stopping the abuse of our close cousins is as welcome as it is surprising.
After all, current President Megawati gave her approval for the road being built through Leuser, whilst Indonesian diplomats have ... jumped to the defense of what is a national icon, urging speedy resolution of the spat.