Thursday, August 31, 2006

I hope this is how Son No 1 is feeling back in the UK today. After all, you're only 30 once and as you finally leave your teens behind it's time to finally face up to the future.

I know he's fine, so this is a very public Happy Birthday, Son, with a Hi to Daughter-in-habitation and Grandaughter.

30 Is A Dangerous Age, Cynthia
Well it was for me.



7:02 pm |
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
  If I were a rich man .....
.... it wouldn't be from blogging. After all, my writings may seem random but I'm not Tom Reynolds, so unless Jakartass adds a cartoon strip or soduku puzzle then I doubt I'll get a book deal.

Still, as my phone bills are quite high ~ and I have a dial-up connection thanks to the fact that I live on the wrong side of the tracks, literally, to benefit from cable or wi-fi ~ I thought I'd investigate various schemes to get paid. If I cast my net wide enough, surely there's someone somewhere willing to pay for my pearls.

I've blogged this before but an article in the New Statesman, Bloggers For Hire, caught my eye so I thought I'd investigate further. Apparently there are several ways to bring in an income, although it does seem that bloggers whose social life revolves around malls would do best.

For Jakartass, given the choices the obvious way would be through PayPerPost.

PayPerPost's home page shows a youthful adman in a smart suit and with a cheeky grin - "He wants to create a buzz for his new product" - alongside a glamorous girl kicking back at a cool party - "She wants to make money". "You tell the blogger what you want him/her to post about," the advice for advertisers reads. "You can require the blogger to add photos to their post, write about experiences with your product; the possibilities are up to your imagination."

You may ignore the bit in the article that suggests that .... bloggers are school or college kids just trying to get laid. For them, the purity of the blogosphere is irrelevant. The idea of getting paid to chat about a soft drink seems absolutely fine.

Yeah, ignore that. I don't like soft drinks. Besides, I'm more of a key social figure in a neighbourhood or community who can be relied on to drop brand references into conversations or hold barbecues where I'll pepper the talk with praise for dusters or aftershave.

Or Bintang Beer.Or Swiss Army Knives with 85 blades.

And, much as I just like to have something to talk about (like this article), you can be sure that I'd pick up my cheque, unlike some brand ambassadors.

PayPerPost need their Brand Blogging Ambassadors to have a PayPal account so obviously I tried to sign up. Almost inevitably, this being Indonesia, I found I couldn't. Naturally I left a message on their site.
Customer Message: 'How do I sign up?

I have Indonesia's no 1 blog ~ http://jakartass.blogspot.com/ ~ but I'm British.and I'm interested in signing up.
I can't. WHY?'
This was their standard reply.

----- Original Message -----
From: PayPal Community Support
To: Jakartass
Sent: Tuesday, August 29, 2006 11:48 PM
Subject: Re: SigningUp

Thank you for contacting PayPal.

We sincerely appreciate your interest in becoming a PayPal member. Unfortunately, we are not yet providing services for the country or region in question. Establishing our service in each new country or region involves complex changes due to different regulations. We hope to be expanding our availability, however, due to the complexities of global expansion, we cannot give a timeframe for this. We are working hard and look forward to expanding our services to additional countries and regions in the future.

At this time, membership is available to residents of the following countries and regions:

*Anguilla *Argentina *Australia *Austria *Belgium *Brazil *Canada *Chile *China *Costa Rica *Cyprus *Czech Republic *Denmark *Dominican Republic *Ecuador *Estonia *Finland *France *Germany *Greece *Hong Kong *Hungary *Iceland *India *Ireland *Israel *Italy *Jamaica *Japan *Latvia *Luxembourg *Lithuania *Malaysia *Malta *Mexico *Netherlands *New Zealand *Norway *Portugal *Poland *Singapore *Slovakia *Slovenia *South Africa *South Korea *Spain *Sweden *Switzerland *Taiwan *Thailand *Turkey *United Kingdom *Uruguay *Venezuela

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us again.

PayPal Community Support
PayPal, an eBay Company

I wonder if there is a connection between the ethnic make up of these countries. According to the Far Eastern Economic Review (with thanks to Madame Chiang for the link), the more Chinese there are in a country, the more prosperous it is.

Burma: 3% Chinese, $157 per capita GDP
Cambodia: 1.2% Chinese, $341 per capita GDP
Laos: 1% Chinese, $396 per capita GDP
Vietnam: 3% Chinese, $518 per capita GDP
Philippines: 2% Chinese, $1,021 per capita GDP
Indonesia: 3.1% Chinese, $1,100 per capita GDP
Thailand: 12% Chinese, $2,845 per capita GDP
Malaysia: 25% Chinese, $5,003 per capita GDP
Singapore: 76.8% Chinese, $24,620 per capita GDP
China: 99.98%
(?) Chinese $????? per capita GDP

So if Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are already on PayPal's list, logically Indonesia is next.

Whoopee. Jakartass is going to be rich!


5:00 pm |
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
  It's a generational thing

I had a dream last night which featured a long-time friend, a guitarist who was voted 3rd in a music poll organised by the Time Out (London listings) magazine in 1976. Mickey looked well in my dream and he was playing a pub gig with once-famous megastars Asia; his playing was, as always, phenomenal.

I mention this because sitting in my inbox this morning came the sad news of the death on Sunday morning of Pip Pyle, drummer extraordinaire. He died, apparently of "natural causes", at the Gare du Nord in Paris, on his way back from a Hatfield and The North gig in Groningen, Amsterdam on Saturday.

Drummer and composer Pip Pyle is widely recognized as the drummer of the Canterbury school of progressive rock. As the drummer for Hatfield and the North and National Health, as well as stints with Gong, In Cahoots, Soft Heap and many, many others in both England and France, Pyle is one of the great drummers of both progressive rock and jazz-rock/fusion.

My musical education grew out of Housewive's Choice and Workers' Playtime on the radio in the late 50's, into my father's wartime piano jazz roots, the London's blues scene of the 60's and, of course, the Beatles.

My musical tastes matured when I encountered Soft Machine and Caravan at the end of the 60's. Inevitably, as the core musicians explored their own paths, we listeners followed.

My first concert T-shirt came from a Hatfield and the North gig in 1973 or 4 at the Logan Hall in London, a gig which I'll never forget. I went with two friends newly arrived from Spain. Looking around, I saw many old friends from previous Canterbury gigs so, unrepentant hippy that I was, I proceeded to light up my large marijuana spliff. My two friends were a little worried when I told them to pass it on but, as I said, we were among friends.

A dozen spliffs found their way back to us and in the interval ~ yes, there were two halves to the concert ~ the band came round and distributed hash brownies. And we all loved the music.

Some of you reading this may tut-tut under your breath but, hey, you weren't there and, as I've said, we were family.

Thirty years later, we are still family. These musicians have continued to produce albums with familiar cadences and connections to where their musical explorations have taken them and us. They continue to inspire new generations of musicians and listeners, but, tempus fuckit, their numbers shrink.

I'm working from home today so am able to listen to Elton Dean and Pip In Cahoots, this year united in the hereafter, and forever in our musical archives.

In Cahoots at the Bull and Gate (1986?)
Elton and Pip

It may be a generational thing and inevitable, but it doesn't diminish the sadness.


11:30 am |
Monday, August 28, 2006
  Indonesian Blog Awards

This has no connection with the Asia Blog Awards of which I am one of 20 judges. The blogs I'll be reading are in English and those in the running were/are given here.

If you're wondering what's going on, who 'won' and stuff like that, the organiser, Chris in Shanghai, wrote the following:

----- Original Message -----
On 8/19/06, Jakartass wrote:
Hi Chris.
Did anyone vote in the Indonesian section of the Asia Blog Awards? Not that anyone's actually asking, you understand, but if they do .....

From: Asia Pundit
To: Jakartass
Sent: Monday, August 28, 2006 10:52 AM
Subject: Re: Indonesia Blog Awards

Hi Jakartass;
Things were delayed by a database error, bizzare outbreak of social obligations and fine weather. Things are fixed now, my social calendar has returned to its normal empty status and Shanghai is again in perpetual smog. I hope to get time to fix things up this week.


Well, there's been nothing yet and it doesn't really matter, does it? Although it peeves a few, such as A. Fatih Syuhud, that many of us blog behind pseudonyms, presumably uninterested in the fame and fortune that being number one would bring us. I don't believe anonymity affects our credibility, and we have our reasons, which Muli in Yogya articulates succinctly.

Quite rightly, Fatih praises Indonesians who write openly.

I am proud that Indonesian bloggers blog bravely; expressing their critique frankly and showing their identities at the same time to tell the one or institution they criticise that they are willing to take the risk and responsibility, if any, of whatever they are saying.

However, Fatih is a student in India, so I doubt that he personally knows any of those he praises. Perhaps they do indeed mask their identities behind pen names. Furthermore, both he and I have come across few blogs by Indonesians which overtly criticise individuals or institutions. Few bloggers have the open courage to or have not yet lost the 'culture' of deference.

That said, this situation will change, if only because blogging does offer the freedom to express one's opinions without too much fear.

That there is now a contest to find the Indonesian Blog of the Year (in bahasa Indonesia) is an indication of the growing maturity of that sector of the local blogosphere. This is encouraging as, in reading the efforts of these pioneers, other generations will be braver in espousing their concerns similarly with an awareness of the possibilities inherent in such communication.



7:00 pm |
Sunday, August 27, 2006
  One down

I don't generally think it's fair to kick a man when he's down, but when that man is Theo Toemion I'll don hobnailed boots and recruit a gang of pom-pommed cheerleaders. I suspect that the entire expat community here feels the same.

Theo came to public prominence last year when, upset at what he perceived to be 'racist' behaviour by the 14 year old referee of a basketball game at the Jakarta International School in which his seven year old was playing, he proceeded to assault the ref, abuse the lad's parents and threaten all and sundry with deportation because he said he 'owned' the police.

This week the former head of Indonesia's powerful Investment Coordinating Board has been forced to eat his words. He has been jailed for six years, not for thuggery but, surprise surprise, for "misusing state funds" amounting to Rp.30.145 billion ($3.3 million).

I hope Theo's son will become a teenage rebel and thoroughly reject his father's sins.


12:00 pm |
Friday, August 25, 2006
  Where've you been?

It's been a week since I posted something here but those of you who like link clicking ~ and try saying those three words after a few beers ~ may have noticed that we've set up Green Indonesia. There has an encouraging response and, hopefully, you'll soon be able to leave comments, suggestions and links for further perusal. Meantimes, thanks for your emails.

We've had a few glitches, mainly because I am not HTML literate, and with WordPress there's a need to be a little more aware of what's what.

Most of what you see at the moment will be converted to pages which will serve as the blogrolls for each category. After that, expect news from near and far, but all within the Indonesian context.

For example, were you aware that the UK Government Advisory Committee which has been advocating a renewed emphasis on nuclear power was dominated by representatives of the UK nuclear industry?

Or that, in order to solve the problem of where to store Britain's nuclear waste ~ which has yet to be quantified (a fact that should scare the bejasus out of everyone) ~ a competition is being held with a fabulous prize - an ENORMOUS sum of money (bribe). You see, no-one really wants a nuclear power station or dump in their backyard. That's why they're generally sited in remote locations.

Oh, and they're not completely safe.

The following are some of the headlines in this week's Jakarta Post, whose archives seem to be locked away at present.

Nuclear power plants: Are they safe?
A nuclear expert from Semarang-based Diponegoro University, Muhammed Nur, said that although nuclear power was not a totally safe technology, Indonesian experts were ready to deal with the risks.

"We don't have enough expertise to develop solar, hydro or wind power plants. But a nuclear power plant is something that has been wanted for since the Soeharto era," he said.

Hang on. Not enough expertise to develop environmentally safe, renewable sources of energy, but enough nous to run a nuclear power plant - because they've wanted one for a while? He sounds like a kid in a toy shop ~ gimme, gimme.

And he continued.

"The decision to establish the reactors is a long-term result of the country's extravagant use of power. We cannot change our wasteful energy lifestyle, so this is the risk we have to take."

Too much hot air, Muhammed.

How nuclear plants produce energy
This simplistic article was accompanied by a flow diagram which a six year old could follow.

Haze thickens over Sumatra and Kalimantan
That's more greedy bastards clearing out forests so they can make short-term profits from plantations.

Oh, and the haze is also settling nicely over Malaysia and Singapore. If they help us douse the fires we'll say 'sorry' and promise not to do it again.

Until next year.

Dumping mud water in sea 'harmful'
Environmentalists warned Thursday that channeling treated water from hot toxic mud into East Java's Madura Strait posed a threat of pollution that could hurt the local fishing industry.

The activists doubted the planned treatment would remove all the toxic chemicals from the mud. The sludge has piled up as high as five meters on about 200 hectares of land in Sidoarjo regency, a large industrial zone and the economic backbone of East Java province.

Riza Damanik, a marine and coastal campaigner with the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), said he was doubtful that Lapindo Brantas Inc. would be able to process all the water contained in the seven million cubic meters of mud that has gushed out of its gas well since May 29.

The Sidoarjo mud flow has shown no signs of abating since it began two months ago. There is no sign either of the resignation of the Minister for Social Welfare, Abdurizal Bakrie, whose family's company is responsible for the mess and the subsequent drowning of the homes of 10,000 people, umpteen factories, the off-on closure of a major toll road and a main line railway.

The ramifications of this environmental disaster, the result of yet another 'human error', will be the subject of a TV documentary or two and many books. Read on and watch this (East Java) site.

And I wonder whose conglomerate will be chosen as the major building contractor for the first nuclear power plant here?


5:00 pm |
Sunday, August 20, 2006
  Green Indonesia

A friend of mine has just started teaching a university course entitled Consumer Behaviourism.

Shopping?? I ejaculated. You're teaching a bunch of rich kids about shopping??
Ah, she replied, but now they'll know why.
Work, buy, consume, die, I say.
But what if there's reincarnation? she suggested.
Everlasting shopping? Hell on Earth, I cry.

Everywhere you turn in Indonesia there is evidence that society in general has lost touch with its roots. The pursuit of temporal wealth by the rich coupled with the pursuit of a living wage by the poor has devastated our environment. There is little recognition that our very survival depends on mutual and communal action.

The needs of the community at large are rarely, if ever, addressed. These have nothing to do with sectarian interests, be they along religious or political fault lines because myopic greed recognises no demarcation.

Cities lack parks, those essential green lungs for our physical well-being whilst their replacements, air-conditioned malls, contribute to global warming, increased flooding, traffic woes and mental malaise. And there is no co-ordinated public transport system, at any level.

The devastation of forests along the shores and in the hinterlands has resulted in increased slaughter from the elements. Mangroves no longer impede erosion or tsunamis and tropical forests no longer provide clean water or safe havens for protected species. Landslips and floods kill hundreds every year.

The plundering of irreplaceable natural resources puts communities at risk - think Freeport and Sidoarjo.

As Jakartass, I've commented on various issues, given links where appropriate and offered moral support. Other bloggers, such as Indcoup, Greenstump and Yosef Ardi, have occasionally touched on environmental issues. We all have a personal perspective on life here so it is rare that we've found an issue we can simultaneously blog. There is only so much an individual can do.

In my researches of various posts about the environment in Indonesia I have come to realise that there is a wealth of information, skills and wisdom on tap, but these taps need to be turned on.

Discussions with a number of online colleagues have shown that there is scope for collective consciousness raising. As regular contributors to hyperspace, aware of its power to network, we have registered GreenIndonesia.net. This is intended to be a wiki-type blog, albeit with a WordPress template.

There are a number of issues which need to be addressed, such as:
Fair Trade
Food Issues
Eco Tourism
Nuclear Power
Marine ecology
Rain Forest Action
Parks and Playspaces .....

No one person or organisation can address all of these issues. For that reason, we invite interested individuals and organisations to co-ordinate and edit sections of this blog.

Posts could focus on issues, news, individuals or whatever seems to be relevant and, hopefully, optimistic. It is our hope that in publishing the collective writings focussed on what we believe constitute a sane future for Indonesia, we may be able to encourage society to actually work towards that future.

Will you join us?



(MONDAY: There are a couple of teething problems involving Firefox and Wordpress compatibility. Please bear with us as we try to resolve them. In fact, and to our displeasure, we recommend I.E. for viewing the site. Meantimes, please keep those emails flooding in.)


12:00 pm |
Lifestyles of the Rich and Jakartass



11:00 am |
Saturday, August 19, 2006
  A Man's Greatest Love ...
... is not necessarily his wife.* Or his girlfriend(s).

So here's Another Charlton Season Preview

This time last year I said that in the case of one Darren Bent who's got a knack for scoring goals, the future's so bright, I've got to wear rose-tinted glasses. I also predicted another great season, which it both was and wasn't.

Last season was perhaps notable for the mid-season departures of two ball winning midfielders who thought they could ply their trades in front of bigger crowds. Danny Murphy has disappeared into a fugue of his own making having failed to win his Spurs and Alexin Smertin is out in the cold of Moscow. Until they left, we did quite well on the grounds of our opponents.

After that we won a few, lost a few, drew a few and didn't get relegated. I didn't bother cleaning my glasses too often. When the highlight of a season is reaching the quarterfinals of the Cup, then we can say it was a pretty good season, but not the best yet, even though, as I predicted, Darren Bent proved to be a star.

I didn't bother to stay up for the summer's World Cup matches, mainly out of disinterest but also because I had to get up early the following mornings. You see, although Darren ended the season as the top English goalscorer in the Premiership and with a full England cap, he didn't go to Germany because the England manager, Swedish rather than English, thought we could win without scoring any goals. (But Darren has managed 5 minutes on the pitch for England since - this Wednesday against Greece - a sight I saw as I paid for my beer with another nocturnal visit to the loo. I think he may have touched the ball once.)

Of course, the real news was the departure at season's end of Alan Curbishley who decided he needed a holiday. Most of us agreed; that the last five minutes of the debacle against ManYoo was abandoned and devoted to a standing ovation for him was not really a reflection on the standard of the football but more to do with him. That I can watch my team on TV season after season, although I live half way round the world, is a testament to his strengths as a leader of limited resources. Few could have done so well.

With a new manager, Iain Dowie (now nicknamed Monica by Addicks worldwide following a bit of flippancy by Jakartass) and eight, at the last count, new faces it may be possible for Little Ol' Charlton to end this coming season higher than last season's 13th which, coincidentally was the Guardian's prediction. He has certainly raised expectations and the Addickted bloggers have generally been positive whilst we wait for tonight's season opener against West Ham, which may or may not be shown live at midnight here.

Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, our major name signing, has popped up a bit this week on ESPN as they've been showing the goals of the first decade of the Premiership. A lot were his, left-footed, right-footed, headed and all with a menacing grin. Paired with Darren Bent and we could have a goal fest this season. All we need to do is bang in a few more than we let in, a thought which should remind you of what a great tactician Jakartass is. With Luke Young, our England no 2 right back as captain, Herman Heidarsson, the Iceland captain in midweek, the newly signed England no 3 goalkeeper Scott Carson as our no 38 (eh?), assorted other internationals in the back row alongside Jonathon Fortune, who's not one but is home-grown, there may be that essential balance in defence.

Which leaves the middle of the park and the major conundrum. Who will feed the forwards and who will protect the rearguard? It could be Amady Faye signed from Newcastle along with Andy Reid signed from Spurs, or .... oh hell, I can't predict all this. As long as we've still got some gutsy players of the likes of the now departed crowd favourites Chris Powell (Watford) and Chris Perry (WBA), then we'll all, except those of us stuck in our armchairs, go home happy.

And the season ahead?

In this part of the world I've a new colleague, from the good 'ol USA, who's an ardent Addick. There's Colin in Thailand and, as always, there's Philip Goh of ESPN in Singapore. Other Addicks holiday hereabouts, so it's not so strange anymore declaiming my Addickshun. Or prognosticating (which is legal since you ask).

We won't be relegated, we'll play more exciting football, have three players in the England squad, and finish around ninth. I'll watch most matches in equal measures of fulfilment and frustration and at the end of the season say that my faith in Charlton hasn't faded.

(*With no apologies to Frankie Valley as I've been gestating this missive for a week or so.)


11:00 am |
Friday, August 18, 2006
  The CIA reads Jakartass

Yep, last night when most Jakartans were on the beach of North Jakarta enjoying the annual fireworks display of Independence Day, a local surfer was referred by the CIA to Jakartass. I suppose I should be flattered, but, who knows, perhaps my pearls are somewhat akin to pornography, a hidden delight for nocturnal pleasure.

There's no accounting for taste.


3:30 pm |
Thursday, August 17, 2006
  Goodbye pluralism

Last weekend, a good friend of mine attended a conference in Puncak, the hill resort outside Jakarta.

How was it?, I asked, thinking of a weekend away from the haze and noise pollution.

Not very good, she told me. It was about nationalism and about how we should work together for the good of the nation. I wanted to say something, but thought I'd better not.

Hey, it's good to speak up, even if it sometimes gets you into trouble, I told her, trying not to think of some of the things I wish I hadn't said.

Ah, but I'm a double minority, she said, being both Chinese and Christian. And the lecturers wouldn't have understood.

It being the 61st anniversary of the Proclamation of Independence, communities throughout Indonesia get together today to slide up greasy poles, go dunking for krupuks, ride decorated bajaj and run relay races, all for miniscule monetary reward. Today is when it's worth having a rethink about what it means to be a citizen of this country of diversity.

The ever-optimistic Jakarta Post has this (slightly edited) editorial.

Houses of worship are an important topic of discussion for many people, as the recent debate over them showed. The impression was that people put more importance on the buildings themselves than on practicing the good deeds taught inside them.

After 61 years as a free nation we are still fighting over rudimentary matters of religion.

Reality is following close on the heels of the debate. In Jakarta, some housing developments are being tailored to a particular religious group, an upsetting trend. Already our schools are strongly divided along religious lines. Wealthy schools in the cities further divide the rich students from the poor.

Our penchant for symbolism and intellectual banality has never waned. Ceremonies play an important part in our lives, while statements in bad taste by certain segments of the elite are rampant.

A recent study by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) finds that people are less tolerant of a neighbor with a different faith, simply because of the religious difference. We are fond of surface values, of appearances rather than substance. It is a sign that an attitude of "holier than thou" and "us versus them" prevails.

The institute also finds that the Muslim majority disapproves of efforts by minority groups to defend their rights by, for example, holding rallies. LSI rightly states that this hinders democracy.

Our gender bias is equally disturbing. According to the survey, we tend to resent homosexuals and transvestites even more than people of different faiths.

The greatest enmity, according to the study, is focused on those formerly imprisoned as communists. This is a disturbing reminder that the mystery of the 1965 putsch, blamed on the communists, has yet to be unraveled. Thousands of communist detainees, jailed for years in the late 1960s under inhumane conditions and often without trial, are now free. Yet they still face discrimination.

The recent Ahmadiyah case reminds us that foes can be found even within one religion. Ahmadiyah members, regarded as heretics by mainstream Muslims, are being beaten and evicted. Thousands live as refugees in their own country. Some are applying for asylum overseas.

This low tolerance toward our compatriots reflects our failure to create a nation where people can live peacefully. It is tragic and deeply saddening that seeking differences among us appears to be almost second nature, even at the cost of weakening ourselves.

We divide ourselves not only along lines of political ideology, religion, race, ethnicity, gender, and region of origin, but also by kampong or village of origin and by the universities we attend.

People seem to have excessive energy for finding differences, for dividing and weakening themselves, eroding social trust until it almost disappears. We seem to lack the urge to seek a common ground where synergy can take place.

The many religions people practice, the hundreds of ethnic groups, the rich culture and languages adorning our nation appear to be more of a liability than an asset. This has to change, once and for all, because it subverts the character of our country and would have seemed like a nightmare to our founding fathers when they envisioned this nation 61 years ago.


11:40 am |
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
  War Is Terrible (edited 16 Aug)

We all know that, don't we?

Maybe not, because what is even worse, in my humble opinion, is its glorification, which to me ranks alongside profiteering, the hallmark of oil companies and arms dealers, as being particularly heinous. Some are guilty of both crimes against humanity.

Those of you in Indonesia with access to the issue of the Jakarta Post of 15th August, please turn to page 11 where you'll see this picture.

The main story is headlined Baghdad bombers slaughter 57 people in market blitz, illustrated with this photo provided by Reuters and taken by Thaier Al-Sudani. I can't find it online or on the Reuter's site so I'm afraid you'll have to make do with this scan. (Anyone wanting a fuller sized version, please email me.)

The caption below this photo is as follows: TRAIL OF DESTRUCTION: An Iraqi woman reacts at the site of multiple attacks in Baghdad on Monday. It goes on to say that at least 56 died, a figure at variance with the headline.

Look closely at the photo.
How many buildings have suffered from 'multiple attacks'?
It looks like just one to me, and that was probably the result of one bomb.

Now look at the woman who dominates the right foreground. Compare the clarity of detail and contrast it with the left middle ground and background which seem to be dusty, as you'd imagine a bomb site to be. Could this be a photoshopped image?

Dead right! Look at her outstretched right hand, in the middle of the picture. On the edge of her forefinger, at the top of her hand as it were, you should be able to make out a black line, which is all that remains of a previous background. In fact, her whole outline is just too 'clean' to be part of this composition.

And what is her reaction? She doesn't seem too unhappy about the devastation behind her, let alone the 56/7 deaths.

Now I don't wish to portray Thaier Al-Sudani as a fraud. After all, a Google search for his photos shows this one

published here and an impressive portfolio of a war photographer in Iraq.

Actually, I could well believe that it's a Reuter's botch up in its search for short-term profits. After all, as noted in the link I gave yesterday, they've been doing it about the collateral damage in Beirut.

I seemed to recall having seen this particular elderly lady in some other photos. In those, she was making her way carefully over other ruined buildings ~ but not in Baghdad. Supposedly she was in Beirut, so I've tracked down the link I found a week ago. She's dressed slightly differently and maybe it's the middle-age which I remember. That and the composition of the photo.

I am not a full time journalist nor do I seek payment for my writings. It is curiosity that has brought me this far. So here are a few questions you may be able to help me with.

1. Was there a similar picture in the Tuesday 15th issue of Kompas, which, like the Jakarta Post, is published by the Gramedia Group? If so, please scan it and send it to me.
2. If I am correct in my supposition, how come the full-time, paid, journalists, sub-editors, tea boys or whoever didn't spot what is blatantly obvious?
3. 56 or 57? How come the copy editors didn't spot that one?
4. What if this were supposedly a picture of the aftermath of another bomb in Beirut. What would you be supposed to think about the Israelis?

All I can accuse the Jakarta Post of is a degree of complacency. As they probably bought the syndicated photo from Reuters in good faith, I doubt that, in this instance, they have a hidden agenda, although Reuters might. The size and prominence of the photo does, however, indicate the Jakarta Post editor's view of the importance of this particular story.

It's a shame that I won't again be able to offer him the same degree of trust as before. But, perhaps, not a shame that complacency does not qualify him for an Unspun award.

(I am open to any suggestions for wiki-type changes to this post. Please comment below or email me.)


7:00 pm |
Monday, August 14, 2006
  One Flu Over The Cuckoo's Nest

Yep, such is my lack of good health today that I'm recycling posts from other bloggers. And why not? The debate Ong Hock Chuan has got going over at Unspun about spin doctors manipulating the truth to the advantage of their paymaster(s) ~ or themselves ~ is an important issue here as Indonesia comes to terms with its role in a newly emergent democracy.

It seems that it is the latter group who are big on bigging themselves up.

Take that self-proclaimed expert on the internet Roy Suryo who set up SBY's site at great expense and, no doubt, great profit to himself. (And there's bugger all in English since April. Nice going, Roy.)

Juwono Sudarsono, the Minister of Defence, has a blog which mixes the personal ~ Hey, I'm a Grandad ~ with the public affairs we know him for. Mr. Suryo isn't happy because J.S's domain name is a dot com. So what? I hear you cry. Is this an important issue?

Jakartass believes it is as we are all at the mercy of self-proclaimed experts who can manipulate the media to their perceived advantage.

As Ong writes, I think we are all at the mercy of these Spin Doctors because we are all victims of an uncritical and even gullible Press they feed, which clings on to the words of these charlatans. Most of the time the reporters are all so lazy or uncritical that all they do is let them speak and then quote them verbatim.

Well, thanks to blogs there is now something we can all do about it. Enda Nasution has posted a comment on What is there for AJI to celebrate on its 12th anniversary? (AJI = the Independent Journalists Alliance) floating the idea of reviving the mediawatch.go.id project.

His thinking is that the media in Indonesia is so free that bloggers do not, like say in Malaysia, have to be the ones providing new information and perspectives to the readers out there. Rather, the role of bloggers in Indonesia, if they want to be useful to society, is to point out the weaknesses of the media. I agree and I think if we bloggers get together we could collectively help shame them into improving themselves.

I think the role of bloggers here should be wider, to educate, inform and, if appropriate, to campaign. But do count me in Ong and Enda, but remember that we're only taking small steps here compared to, say, Reuters who have been manipulating the world's press in their coverage of the bombing of Beirut.


7:00 pm |
Sunday, August 13, 2006
  Happy Anniversary WWW

And I'm not referring to this month's 15th anniversary of Tim Berner-Lee's WWW nor the Wonderful World of Wrestling.

Today is the 40th wedding anniversary of Michael Quinion and his wife. I mention this because he does in the 500th edition of his weekly World Wide Words e-newsletter - online here.

The e-mail newsletter first appeared on 12 July 1996, a slim forerunner of its expansive current format.

That first issue of the newsletter had seven subscribers. Now it has 26,750+ by e-mail and another 15,000+ via RSS, with readers coming from at least 120 countries (I've lost count). The Web site has grown to more than 1,800 pieces. Each month, the site receives 1.7 million page hits from more than 750,000 individual visitors. Many commercial sites would like to boast such numbers.

In the ten years from then to now, I've received many thousands of interesting e-mails from subscribers and site visitors. There are always readers who know more about the topics I write about than I do. With their help, the site has become a respected, if somewhat garrulous, reference point for people interested in the way our language has evolved and continues to change.

I'm a regular reader and I contributed the Jakarta Post headline Crocodiles Go Hungry Due To Shortage Of Tourists.

ECM reaches 1,000 releases

Music collections offer a biographical journey and certain record labels encapsulate an era which leaves an imprint in one's psyche. For me, there was CBS in the late 60's, which wanted to Fill (Y)Our Heads With Rock with The Sounds of the Seventies ~ Santana, Taj Mahal, It's A Beautiful Day, Miles Davis, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a veritable cornucopia of delights. CBS has since turned monolithic, corporate and uninteresting.

Although I didn't know it then, another record label was founded in 1969 and it is one I have never lost faith with.

To refer to ECM simply as a record label feels like a perverse understatement. Founded in 1969, ostensibly as a jazz label, ECM has come to embody a feel and an approach to the meeting of jazz, classical, contemporary and world music that is difficult to quite define, but - once you've encountered it - instantly recognisable.

From Estonian minimalist Arvo Part to Black Power icons the Art Ensemble of Chicago, from the film soundtracks of Jean-Luc Godard to the piano sonatas of JS Bach, the defining, overarching element in all ECM's music is the label itself. Elegant, moody, austere and profoundly European, the ECM vibe comes with an element of seductive difficulty - a sense that the effort of the listener will be both required and rewarded that it can be peculiarly compelling, even addictive.

ECM is the nearest thing music has to a cult. And its founding guru and presiding genius, who masterminds the cross-genre collaborations that are a feature of its output, who has produced almost all of is 1,000 releases, devising if not actually designing most of the starkly elegant covers, is the enigmatic 63-year-old Manfred Eicher.

A cult? I suppose it is; I'll buy every ECM album I can find because it is rare to find one I can't listen to. Roll on the next 1,000.

Happy Birthday Fidel

Yep, Fidel Castro is 80 today and is up and working following his recent operation. Gabriel Garcia Marquez writes about the man he thinks he knows here.

He's a man of ironclad discipline, inexhaustible patience, colossal ideas and insatiable illusions.

George Bush isn't happy, but so what?

Other august birthday boys and girls today include Danny Bonaduce (actor), Dan Fogelberg (singer), Cliff Fish (musician), Gretchen Corbett (actress), Kevin Tighe (actor), Don Ho (singer, host), Pat Harrington (actor) and Quinn Cummings (actress) - who has a blog, .


12:30 pm |
Saturday, August 12, 2006
  Answers in a nutshell.

Nice name for a blog, eh?

That aside, here are some follow-ups.

That coin
The Guardian gives the following answer:

Jack Taylor used the coin for the game as it had been specially crafted by the Indonesian mint - only three were made, one of which was presented to Taylor for his services to football and it was very heavy.

Ujang Salemba who posed the original question comments that this is really a non-answer.

Water Works
Having criticised the performance of Thames Water who cannot manage to adequately supply water to Londoners let alone Jakartans, I was interested to note that they're selling their shareholding in the local company. Yosef Ardi reports on a story in TempoInteractive that, apart from continued UK investment, Indonesian businessmen led by Sandiaga Salahudin Uno (chairman of Indonesia's Young Entrepreneurs Association) will have a stake, with 5% being owned by Saratoga Investment, a company with family ties to Astra International.

Astra regularly tops polls for the best managed Indonesian company and it is my gut feeling that we may now see some 'social responsibility' being enforced in the management of what, after all, is a societal resource.

And I'm not just saying that because a new blog, Astra Watch, gives Jakartass a permanent link.

Tit for Tat?
It's very rare that Jakartass takes sides in geo-political issues. I back calls for ceasefires rather than crying out for vengeance. I do not support acts of war nor acts of terrorism, so it is rare for me to 'take sides'.

However, there is enough evidence on the net and out in the open to 'prove' that Israel's incursion into the Lebanon has been long-planned. Aangirfan supplies several links in my comments suggesting that Israel's fluid borders are because of their need for access to Lebanon's water. I am also impressed by this article by George Monbiot

Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University, told the San Francisco Chronicle that "of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared ... By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we're seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it's been simulated and rehearsed across the board".

That such acts of premeditated violence encourage poor young fools from Indonesia and elsewhere to volunteer their lives is natural. That they would be doing precisely what Israel wants them to do ~ acts of so-called provocation only encourage responses ~ is also pre-meditated.

An immediate ceasefire is imperative. As it is in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Chechen .....


11:30 am |
Friday, August 11, 2006
Please comment!!

I'm a reporter for the International Herald Tribune, and I'm writing a feature for our Expat life section about houseguests. I came across your blog on the internet and it shows you have a vivid way of describing your life in Indonesia. I was wondering if you have had any experience with houseguests, particularly people from back home who came to visit. I would be curious to learn about good and bad experiences, and what advice you might offer other expats on handling guests. If so, would it be possible to find a time to speak on the phone for a brief interview?

Roxana Popescu
At Home Abroad Reporter
International Herald Tribune

My problem is that my usual houseguests are related to, by tribe if not genetics, to 'Er Indoors. I do have a couple of anecdotes about westerners staying here but, by-and-large, these tales are not so interesting, other than the fact that they can often outdrink me.

If you have a tale to tell, please leave it in my comments. Alternatively, what are your house rules for preventing over-stayers?


10:00 pm |
Thursday, August 10, 2006
  How secure do you feel?

If like me, you have an HBSC account and have disposed of a computer hard disk recently then start worrying.

However, anyone thinking of getting access to the Jakartass millions by exploiting these newly publicised loopholes, should know that none of my accounts or account details are online. I keep my wealth under the mattress.

And 'Er Indoors on top.


3:30 pm |
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
  So much to do, so little time ....

So please have a look at Bart's latest round-up of Indonesian news, dip into my blogroll, read a book or have a look at some weird toilets until I get back to you.



4:30 pm |
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
UK Travel Agency
is looking for a
Fair Trader
who can supply
Batik Travel Wallets
Email for details

PS. I've been asked to add the words plus sizeable investment. I presume that means at the end of the last line and not the fifth.


6:00 pm |
Monday, August 07, 2006
  A message from the Ceasefire Campaign .

Dear friends,

For more than three weeks now we've watched the bloodshed in the Middle East with horror. All the while, global and regional leaders have stood by and failed to take the necessary action to stop the violence. Finally, this weekend, the US and France reached agreement on a plan. But this compromise plan fails to call for a full ceasefire and is so weak that the violence has not - and will not - stop.

This is unacceptable. Hundreds of innocent civilians have already been killed, thousands have been wounded, and almost a million people have been made homeless.

The UN Security Council will be meeting early this week to try to resolve the crisis. They need to know that the world is watching them, and that anything less than an immediate ceasefire is not good enough. Click here to sign this petition demanding that the members of the UN Security Council take immediate action to end this bloodshed.

Please sign the petition today, and then spread the word. Our goal is to deliver a petition to the Security Council with 1 million signatures this week, and to publicize the petition in major newspapers in the capitals of the US, UK, France and other Security Council members.

Thanks so much for your help,

Ricken Patel

P.S. Groups and leaders from across the world and from diverse perspectives agree that an urgent ceasefire is an important part of resolving this crisis. Most countries of the world, from Lebanon to Tanzania to India, have called for a ceasefire, and have been joined by major international NGOs such as Oxfam and Amnesty International. Christian leaders such as Pope Benedict XVI, and the World Council of Churches have also called for a ceasefire. Arab and Muslim organizations such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference have also been joined by Israeli and Jewish groups such as Meretz Israel, Degel HaTorah, and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom in calling for a ceasefire.


4:30 pm |
Sunday, August 06, 2006
  Hemat Energi, Hemat Biaya

'Er Indoors informs me that the above slogan is not seen or heard any longer on Indonesia's TV's. It translates as Save Energy, Save Money which seems to be eminently sensible.

We can define intelligence as the ability to adapt to one's environment, so on that basis knowing that fossil fuels are running out, the notion of using less, rather than more oil, surely indicates a higher level of intelligence.

Here in Indonesia, however, Pertamina, the state oil company, has reduced the price of high octane fuel "because the supply for oil was high while the demand was low," said company spokesman Toharso. "We took into consideration that overall the crude oil price has gone down. Not only that, but the rupiah has grown stronger," he said. "Pertamina hopes it can foster economic growth."

This will, of course, affect only the owners of luxury cars who should surely be charged more rather than less for the 'pleasure' of driving a gas guzzler. Still, if they can contribute to economic growth ...

"The price fuel cut for Pertamax has a connection with how the high and middle classes in Jakarta spend their money, especially for entertainment. With this change, some people will have money to spare," said Yoris Sebastian, head of the food and beverage division for Hard Rock Café, Jakarta.

"The challenge is how to make those people spend their money in the city to foster the local economy and not abroad, such as spending money by shopping in Singapore," he said.

That's some kind of convoluted logic, even assuming that owners of luxury cars are habitués of Hard Rock.

I reserve judgement on biofuels made from plants as I feel, intuitively, that the production of these could be energy intensive as well as needing vast areas of agricultural land which could be better used for food crops. What I do know is that we need to get back to basics and reduce our energy needs.

Indonesia Anonymus have one obvious answer - switch off. PLN, the State Electricity company has resorted to adverts on the sides of city buses exhorting us to cut down on our use of electricity. Perhaps the easiest thing to do is to switch off appliances when they're not in use.

List your household appliances and then consider those that are never switched off because they're either essential, like a refridgerator, or have a standby mode. Now consider how much use your DVD player, computer, TV, stereo etc. have, yet still display that little red light. As much as 10% of Indonesia's electricity is estimated to be used for standby purposes.

And if we all used those energy saver light bulbs which offer a brighter light for a lower wattage, then even greater energy savings could be made.

I've recently discovered that electric motorbikes are now viable for urban commuters. They don't use petrol and they are, therefore, non-polluting. They don't give any information as to the amount of electricity need to recharge the batteries they run on. The main problem I see, apart from the fact that they would cost twice as much as those noisy little Chinese machines that crowd our streets, is just that. They would also crowd our streets.

Far better that we had adequate (and even more than adequate) public transport to cut down on those traffic jams which use up vast amounts of scarce fuel.

Here endeth today's missive, powered by an ecologically sound energy source: hot air.


4:30 pm |
Friday, August 04, 2006
  Anyone Worried About Anything - Anywhere?

Then the Havaria Emergency and Disaster Information Services in Budapest, Hungary have just the travel warnings for you. In English too.

Thanks to Son No.One who sent me this because he's worried by the impending 'Cosmic Events' in India. That and the apparent radioactive cockerels in Indonesia.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
  Buzz On

"There's a buzz in the local blogosphere that an Indonesian coin was used by Jack Taylor, the Englishman who refereed the 1974 World Cup final between Holland and West Germany. Why? Why? Why?" pleads Ujang Salemba in the Football Guardian.

I can only help by creating even more of a buzz.

And my only comment is that there's only one Indonesian coin that could be used today and that's this one worth Rp.1,000.
All the rest are so light that the slightest breeze would send them the length of the pitch.


4:04 pm |
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
  If you can't beat us, join us.

A strange phenomenon is taking place here in Indonesia's Blogland. Where once we amateur journalists and commentators were viewed as mavericks and of little consequence, it seems that our endeavours have been filling an informational gap.

As Amy says in one of my of my comment boxes, "As an alternative may bloggers continue to write heaps. As a wingeing reader, what we get from the press is oftentimes no more than advertorial ... the motor review written by the product salesman, same with that fascinating overseas tour from the tour organizer, the preview of the preview of a must see show, it's all, how shall we say, Linked."

That is very true Amy, but what I look to the 'professional' (i.e. paid) press for is the sense that they serve a community. I'm not overly bothered by those media which espouse a viewpoint diametrically opposed to mine as I much prefer to live in a pluralist society. The thought of living in a community in which we are all Stepford Wives (Husbands and Children) is totally anathema to me.

My papers of choice are the Guardian from England and the Jakarta Post here. As you may have noticed, I often link to and quote from their articles in order to add veracity to my posts. Since Jakartass was born in March 2004, I have noticed a certain synchronicity, a partnership, between us. The Guardian gives me a plug in its worldwide weblog list and they contacted me shortly after the Jimbaran bombings. The Jakarta Post has, on a few occasions, echoed my stories, most recently with the abrogation of social responsibility by the foreign-owned water companies here in Jakarta.

One could argue that this synchronicity is mere happenstance and I would accept that. I don't seek scoops and merely offer, on occasion, ascerbic comments which would not be acceptable in a family newspaper, if only because those criticised would probably use the laws of libel to muzzle my voice of dissent.

So far, to my knowledge there has been only one attempt to stifle a blogger here in Indonesia, though Indcoup does worry about our potential fate here. Maybe the powers-that-be think that the Indonesian blogosphere is of such little significance that there is no need yet for a 'Press Council' to control our output. We usually manage to exercise good editorial self-control. In general, too, although there are occasional breaches of what may be termed 'netiquette', we have been a supportive community. Rare has been the need to delete comments, a feature that adds to the vibrancy and, I suggest, the validity of what we write.

For these reasons perhaps, journalists who are not content with having an editor monitoring their output or who wish to see their published or spiked pearls immortalised in hyperspace are setting up blogs. Duncan Graham, a contributor from Surabaya to the Jakarta Post, is one such who archives his articles in a blog. (Given the difficulty in accessing the archives of the Jakarta Post, I wish Simon Pitchforth, who writes a column, Metro Mad, for the Sunday edition, would also archive his observations. He is, after all, the only person to give Jakartass a name check in print.)

Journalist blogs range from the informational, such as Yosef Ardi's to the more analytical as in the group blog Paras Indonesia. (It is worth noting that the latter is a vehicle for the cadre of politicos who've split away from ex-President Megawati's party, PDI-P.)

I have recently discovered a few more Indonesian journalists who've gone online. There's Ong Hock Chuan who describes himself as a former journalist, present PR hack, diver, disaster-prone mountain biker, amateur photographer (and) neophyte blogger. Ong works with/for a Jakarta-Based PR Consultancy on the media, journalists, PR, communications and life in Indonesia called Maverick. Their group blog lists eight local journalist bloggers and their 'Big Family', colleagues I presume, is nine strong.

And it's through them I discovered that the current edition of the weekly magazine Majalah Tempo has six pages on Indonesian blogging. Yosef tells me that Jakartass doesn't get a mention and neither does he but it's a good article anyway.

Of greater import to my thesis about the supposed value of hyperspaced journalism is Ong's posting about the birth of the Asia Sentinel.

Where do mainstream journalists go to reinvent themselves? Some move into PR, others into blogging, some both. Others, like former Far Eastern Economic Review editor and regular International herald Tribune contributor Philip Bowring and former managing editor of The Standard John Berthelsen, go on to freelance and eventually try to start up a "standalone internet publishing site," the Asia Sentinel.

The website went live yesterday (August 1st) and, in a letter addressed to undisclosed recipients, Bowring says that it was "created by journalists, myself included, to provide a platform for news, analysis and opinion on Asian affairs, national and regional and encompassing politics, business, society and the arts."

Bowring also goes on to say that The Asia Sentinel is meant to "fill the gaps in coverage left by the decline and fall of regional English-language print publications." It's a worthwhile endeavor as there are almost no in-depth English publications left of any note that cover Asia seriously.

The question is whether the Asia Sentinel team are the right ones to pull it off. The other journalists in this venture are Lin Neumann, a former Executive Editor of The Standard and Anthony Spaeth, most recently executive editor for Time Asia.

Not exactly a blog as the feedback will presumably be at the whim of the editors. So I'll comment here that I think that initially there is a lack of depth in articles such as:

The Melody and Mimi show
An enterprising Filipina who made her money as a porn star has turned her self-marketing talents to American politics. She speaks to A Lin Neumann.


The Wandering Palate: Pinot Noir doesn't fight back
A look at Australian and New Zealand pinot noirs. Do they really have fewer headaches per bottle than other vintages?


"There are no items to display" about Indonesia.

So I suppose I'll have to carry on blogging.

Ho hum.

Thursday 7am Follow up

Journalists in most countries have a professional code governing what is permissable in searching for and publishing an article.

A case in New York reported in the NY Times and commented upon yesterday in the Guardian blog raises the issues of the rights, responsibilities, and protections of citizens acting as journalists.

This is a very grey area, especially here in Indonesia, a mere eight years after Suharto abdicated. Press freedom cannot yet be taken for granted, partly because there are too many private agendas and interests behind the publishers.

Individual bloggers in Indonesia currently have few readers in circulation terms and none of us earn a living from our endeavours. Still, as Jeff Jarvis says in the Guardian, blogging was a helluva lot easier when all we wrote about was our cats.


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