Saturday, September 30, 2006
Charlton - The Misery Continues?

That's what ESPN said at the end of an enthralling encounter with Arsenal. I type this expecting their pundits to pour praise on the sublime football played by Arsenal and, hey, they would be 100% correct.

But 1-2 is not a massacre and the second Arsenal goal by Robin van Persie is going to be shown for seasons to come.

That the ESPN 'team' focussed on the Arsenal misses rather than Charlton's sterling efforts is, I suppose, to be expected.

We were NOT disgraced and Arsenal, for all their world (cup) class players, know they were in a game. Our England players were superb: Darren Bent scored, Luke Young never put a foot wrong and everyone else, including Kevin Misbie, gave their all. That some of them were not in the Arsenal class is not their fault. Besides, they were in the team because Monica picked them.

So, believe me, Charlton will not be relegated on this form. I won the office sweepstake based on this result, so I know what I'm talking about.


11:15 pm |
Friday, September 29, 2006
I'm booked.

Our Kid regularly asks me if I'm watching my book. What he's referring to is the booked TV programme I'm slumped in front of. I forgive him the odd lexical error because he does like reading, although only in English. A week ago I brought home James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl and Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, both in Indonesian, and I was surprised when he said that he doesn't like reading in Indonesian. Are the translations that bad?

He has got the Roald Dahl story in English and enjoyed it. He also read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory before I let him (us) watch the Tim Burton movie. You see, I believe that reading is important for so many reasons, not least the broadening of horizons and the fostering of imagination and creativity.
When I was a lad, my library was on the ground floor of this grand building, Charlton House.

Like Indcoup, I lament the lack of good bookshops and libraries here in Jakarta. Reading is very much part of our culture and there will be few westerners here who haven't got a book 'on-the-go' which they read in the loo, the back of their stationary car or taxi, or just before bedtime.

My current book-on-the-go ...
Many years ago, too numerous to enumerate, Indcoup and I were colleagues in a language school here which, at its zenith, had nigh on 60 native speaker English teachers. Talking about reading to one of my upper level classes, I said that I could guarantee that all of us had a book they were currently reading.

I was wrong. One colleague didn't have time to read a book: he was writing one, and if you come across a tome about the different types of prahu (indigenous fishing boats) throughout the archipelaego by Nick Somebody-or-other then understand that this was a real labour of love.

Libraries are in the news, or rather the lack of them. The Jakarta Post regularly features individual efforts such as the young man in Yogya whose stock was largely destroyed in the earthquake. His readers were youngsters in fairly remote villages, the very 'clients' most in need as they wait for rehousing. Then there's the mobile library which, the Jakarta Post recently reported, will have to come off the road soon as its grant aid has ceased.

This week, well-known social commentator and former Presidential spokesman (for Gus Dur since you ask) Wimar Witoelar is surprisingly chuffed to be called a 'Blogger'.

So, they (Metro TV) call me a blogger. I feel like John F. Kennedy who came to the Berlin Wall in 1963 and said: Ich bin ein Berliner. Now I can say, Ich bin ein Blogger.

Yeah, well, me too, Wimar, me too. But the reason I mention this is that Wimar has been reading Devi Girsang's blog and she's been searching for public libraries. Did she find one in this teeming metropolis?

Heck no, but in case you're interested, she did manage to post this review of the National Library.

I've made up my conclusion; it's NOT a public library. It's just a NATIONAL library. Public library lends its collection (for free! Except for the late charges), free access for everyone, provides cozy place to read on, and free membership for all (based on my research of public libraries overseas). No wonder, reading-as-a-habit is not very familiar among Indonesians in general. You know why; it's hard (to) find ... a public library in the city.

But good reading is not that hard to find in the blogosphere and I'd like to welcome back to Jakarta, if only for a very short while, Avi of IndoDreamin' who has the kind of holidays the rest of us can only dream about. Mombassa, London next (?), China .... this is a very personal, yet readable travel blog.

And finally, all of us who've had contact with Carl Parkes are worried. The Friskodude has been absent from the blogosphere for more than two months. This is too long an absence and we don't think he's gone travelling, not without blogging about it anyway..

Travel writing has been my primary employment over the last 15 years, in which I have authored six guidebooks to Southeast Asia published by Avalon Travel and National Geographic.

Do let us know if you have seen this man .....

Hey Dude, where are you?

Our Kid has just asked me this question:"Dad, do you still have your sperm?"
Can anyone recommend a book I can give him?


7:00 pm |
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
  Sausages and other nice stuff

By now, you'll know that I'm right chuffed to have had a sausage dedicated to Jakartass
In keeping with my false modesty, and because the inestimable J-Walk Blog gave the link, I though I'd try and find some other nice testimonials on the web.

Jakartass is great. I don't know what else to say. It really saves me time and effort. Thanks guys, keep up the good work!
- John Collins

Keep up the excellent work. The very best. This is simply unbelievable!
- Pam Wood

The more I use it, the more it impresses me. It really saves me time and effort. It's just amazing.
- James Johnson

The service was excellent. Nice work on your Jakartass. Jakartass is awesome!
- Elizabeth Reed

It makes my life alot easier. Thanks to Jakartass, we've just launched our 5th website! Thanks guys, keep up the good work!
- Steve Phillips

Wow, all that foolsome stuff has got me so over-excited, I'll have to lie down. Unfortunately, that won't be until Xmas which is (only?) three months away but, hey, this is where we'll be. The restaurant will be catering to a cosmopolitan group of guests, so I wonder whether there this will be on the menu.

Swedish Christmas Sausage

And if you're wondering why I've gone all seasonal, it hasn't got anything to do with Ramadhan being in full swing here. This, of course, will be concluded with Idul Fitri (24th and/or 25th October), the time of great feasting and present giving; the Muslim Christmas as it were.

No, it's because here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, on Monday and Tuesday this week, the Diamond Geezer in London pointed out that it's time to start your Xmas shopping.

Shop Early For Christmas

Bah, humbug. It's all a bit ridiculous, isn't it?

Because I prefer to live in the here and now, I'd be grateful for any early sightings of Xmas paraphernalia in Jakarta, or elsewhere in Indonesia, such as supermarket muzak of carols, sightings of santa, elves or grottoes. Let me know where the sighting occurs and then I'll have something else to blog about.


6:00 pm |
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
  Jakartass is jaded so please have a look at these Indonesian sites.

Andreas Harsono is a journalist, currently working with the Pantau Foundation, a media organization in Jakarta. And a very distinguished investigative journalist too. In English and Indonesian.

Lita in Holland
I think she's on holiday and this is probably a 'private' blog ~ and very readable it is too with some nice photos.

Nungky's Man offers Food for the Body and the Soul.
That's sausages and Al Qur'an, so, being a vegetarian I'll be leaving this man to Nungky.
(Five hours later: Nungky has given me the nicest thank you I have ever had. Really. )

Muli's Commune is (possibly) moving abroad.
Tales of marginalized communities: how knowledges are communicated, urban spaces struggled for, and happiness and freedoms pursued.

Sidoarjo is now extremely marginalized ....

.... and it could get a lot worse.

An expert, Mr Mazzini, whose team has studied mud volcanoes for more than a decade has spent just under a week at the Sidoarjo site, and said that it's impossible to say conclusively whether the drilling of an exploratory well nearly two miles deep by gas company PT Lapindo Brantas, a couple of hundred metres away caused the disaster.

"This is a huge case of overpressure," he said. "A casing would not have made any difference, I don't think. But I'm not a drilling expert."

And neither am I, so let's move on and allow me to briefly address our colonial cousins in the Good Ol' USA.

This is what you can read in this week's Newsweek.

And when you've got your heads out of the sand, read the gritty truth like the rest of the world.

(Thanks to Indcoup and his eagle eyes.)



4:30 pm |
Monday, September 25, 2006
  Getta Life

Whilst others are losing theirs, it seems a little bi-polarity is called for. As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote 70 years ago in his essay 'The Crack-Up', "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise."

For Chris, writing in the wake of the Aceh Tsunami, it's a matter of Orwellian 'doublethink'. There is nothing built into the heart of all ... somethings, a nullity we use every day to consider things that are not (my keys are not in my pocket) and things that are (I am limited, fragile, subject to whim of earth and muggers). To sit and consider these nothings, without inventing an absent something (god) to comfort me in their presence: that's the difficult thing.

So, let me consider a few present 'somethings', like the 250 gigabyte external hard drive I bought at Ratu Plaza on Saturday for Rp.1 million. I went with Our Kid, partly because I have to reformat his computer which is replete with installed games but lacks vital files for running them. On the forecourt of the plaza, which is a posh name for a rundown mall, a short middle aged lady accosted me suggesting that I might like to contribute to the welfare of Indonesian children. I told her, in my best cockney flavoured Indonesian, that satu Our Kid cukup ~ one's enough, thank you.

Then we met the earnest young canvassers for Greenpeace on the footbridges over Jl. Sudirman. I hope they have kept my email address so they can send me regular updates of their activities to post on Green Indonesia. For starters, you might like to see their Sidoarjo slideshow.

In the blogosphere, it was good to see Oigal was back for a short while as he popped in to have a pop at a few of us in-between his visits to foreign parts.

I'm glad that he agrees with me that CSR is a gimmicky politically correct term and that it would be far better for the government to fulfil its responsibilities rather than relying on major corporations to fuck things up for them. As Oigal almost says about Lapindo, it's all a cover-up. In Sidoarjo, it's toxic mud. For government critics, it's merely toxic.

In Bangkok, government critics aren't allowed, not until they get a government, that is.

More government critics have been spotted here in Jakarta. Debayani Kar is the communications and advocacy coordinator at Jubilee USA Network, which is based in Washington, D.C. and she's been blogging about her time here having lots of meetings with members of the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), a key organizer of the International People's Forum (IPF), and Koalisi Anti-Utang (KAU), or in English, the Anti-Debt Coalition,.and enjoying eating fried noodles at almost every meal here.

Debi's governmental criticism is aimed at Singapore rather than Indonesia, even though the local police chief in Batam suggested that these articulate opponents of the IMF and the World Bank were terrorists.

On a more personal level, Jenny, a 30+ish mother of 3 in Queensland Australia, is planning a work relocation for 2 years to Jakarta in 2007. Around today, she'll have arrived in Singapore with her tribe, a little bit worried about the toilets, humidity and lack of seasons (as is Indcoup today.)

And now for something which may yet be a nothing. My good friend Leonardo, who runs MoonJune Records in New York, is coming this way in early December because there may be a Progressive Rock Festival on Dec 2 and 3, to include one of the groups he promotes, DFA from Italy ~ who are not to be confused with the Irish DFA nor the American DFA.

Gatot Widayanto
should be well pleased. He writes of DFA's CD Lavori In Corso, "I was impressed the first time I spun the CD. The music of the band gave me an impression of a blend of music from Gryphon, Island, PFM and King Crimson with some early Genesis style in some symphonic transition pieces. What truly amazed me is actually the musicianship demonstrated by each member of the band.

"Heavily dominated with the sound of keyboard, synthesizer and mellotron in most of rhythm section, however, the composition allows sufficient time for each instrument to perform the solo. From this standpoint, I can see clearly the virtuosity of each member of this four-piece band. Overall, the musical composition of this album is music-orientated that demonstrates marriages of sounds (and effects) produced by each instrument used. All songs are deceptively complex but the create excellent harmony.

If this all ends up as nothing, well no matter. As Leonardo writes, we can meet, festival or no festival, and have some beers together and chat.

Email me, music lovers, if you're interested in more details of the proposed festival.



4:00 pm |
Saturday, September 23, 2006
  In America, support for the death penalty is waning as the public realises that too many innocent people have been killed by the system.

"..... innocence has completely rewritten the political rules of the death penalty. What's an acceptable number of innocent people for a state to kill a year? None is the acceptable number. Politicians just can't say they support the death penalty no matter what any more."


9:30 am |
Friday, September 22, 2006
  Dead men tell no lies

And with this morning's execution by firing squad of Fabianus Tibo, Marinus Riwu, and Dominggus Da Silva, it is doubtful that the truth about the violence in Central Sulawesi will ever be told.

This has not been a miscarriage of justice, so much as the actions of a kangaroo court. My faith in the integrity of reformasi has slumped even further.

And SBY is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize? Could it be because with the death of these three men, others will cease their murderous ways?


8:00 am |
Thursday, September 21, 2006
  Grist to Miko's Mill

What follows should really please Miko who thinks that Jakartass is a shill for communism.

Josef Kalla, our esteemed VP, is leaving tomorrow on a two-week "strictly business" trip that will take him to the U.S. and Canada. He has meetings lined up with US VP Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, other US officials as well as one-on-one meetings with executives of the IMF, Halliburton, ExxonMobil, Freeport McMoran, Chevron Corporation, Merrill Lynch as well as tobacco and textile corporations in New York and Chicago.

This agenda is going to send mixed signals to those Islamic groups who think that Indonesia doesn't/shouldn't support USA activities in Iraq and Afghanistan or interventionist moves towards Iran. Indonesia is seen to be hand-in-glove with the Great Satan and the capitalist organisations which have profited very nicely, thank you, from recent military operations.

Presumably one of the tobacco companies to be visited is Philip Morris which earlier this year bought out the Sampoerna family from Surabaya who now own one of the world's largest online gambling companies, Mansion, which sponsors Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, reputedly in Jewish ownership.

Football, gambling?

My research hasn't produced evidence of any of these companies being involved in the porn industry, which should please Abu Bakar Ba'asyir who'd like to see us all living under sharia law. He's quoted in the JP today as saying,"If you ask me which one is the more dangerous, naked women or the Bali bombs, then my answer would be the women showing off their skin."

Now that's a philosophical discussion I'll leave to The Reveller although, to quote someone's quote, if I had all the money I'd spent on wine, women and song, I'd spend it all on wine, women and song. Or was it sex and drugs and rock'n'roll?

What is perhaps more relevant is that at the end of August, Chairman of the Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MI) Abu Bakar Ba`asyir ... called for a boycott of US products in protest against Israeli aggression in Lebanon and Palestine.

He won't be too pleased then with Kalla or that this week Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati was selected as Best Finance Minister in Asia, 2006, by Emerging Markets Forum. The award was given amidst the IMF and World Bank meeting in Singapore.

A friend of Mull said: "But she's only been in office for a year."
Another friend of his said: "Soekarno once said, 'if the capitalists are praising us, then we must be doing something wrong.' "

A sentiment with which Jakartass agrees, but please do note that does not make me a communist, a radical fundamentalist or any other -ist except, very occasionally, pissed.


4:00 pm |
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
  And here is today's news ...
..... according to the headlines on the front page of the Jakarta Post.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani slags off World Bank

Consumers, rich and poor, pick fake goods

Public still hostile to PKI

That's three headlines and a big photo of some farmers protesting rice imports and a smaller one of bosom pals Jacques Chirac and George Bush Jr. shaking hands. George looks really scruffy.

Hang on a sec, what's this tucked away in half a single column on the right?

Thai troops stage coup against Thaksin

Now this regional news is the lead story in the UK papers The Guardian and The Independent and you would expect a similar reaction here. All I have found is a short article in the JP to say that the Indonesian Embassy in Bangkok has issued a Travel Advisory* to Indonesian citizens which basically says carry some ID and hati-hati (be careful).

The Bangkok Post has fuller information, perhaps thus denying reports of press censorship. Current 'breaking news' includes a statement from Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Desra Percaya ~ and you know you can trust her when she says, "The Indonesian Government has closely followed the political developments in Thailand with concern and expresses its hope that through democratic means, the political crisis in Thailand can be resolved peacefully for the interests of the Thai people."

Percaya said the government advised Indonesian citizens in Thailand to maintain close contact with the Indonesian Embassy in Bangkok, adding that the situation there was reportedly under control.

Tanks for the memories

So that's all right then. Nothing about the overthrow of a democratically-elected government, but perhaps that's because history is being rewritten here to show that Suharto's ascension to power was perfectly legitimate. It was the fault of those pesky commies (Partai Kommunist Indonesia) that the military was forced to step in and to force Sukarno to step down.

The Education Ministry has rewritten school history books once again, restoring the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) as the sole culprit of the aborted 1965 coup and the bloodletting that followed, in which tens of thousands of people died. (Or a million?)

In the earlier 2004 trial education curriculum, the PKI is mentioned as only one of several perpetrators of the grassroots violence after the coup attempt, in which at least 80,000 people were killed. Thousands more PKI members and alleged sympathizers were imprisoned without trial for many years.

"When we arranged the 2006 history curriculum, we found that making the PKI the main perpetrator was the most acceptable truth for Indonesians," University of Indonesia historian Susanto Zuhdi told The Jakarta Post.

Eh? The most acceptable truths?

Try these for size and ask youself which one(s) are truly believable.

Did you know:
- that the Earth really is flat and any other perception is an optical illusion?
- that Global Warming is a fantasy perpetrated by fools spouting a lot of hot air?
- that the moon landings were faked by NASA?
- that my mother had webbed toes? We called her Ducks.
- that this photo was taken just seconds before the destruction of WTC on 9/11 or, as we Brits like to say, 11/9?

*The (UK) Foreign Office was not advising visitors to leave Thailand or cancel trips. It said: "If you intend to travel to or are currently in Bangkok, you should monitor all available information on the local situation. You should also avoid any demonstrations and large crowds. Movements around government buildings and in public may be restricted until the situation becomes clearer."

Among the thousands of Britons in the country are 800 with Thomas Cook. "There is no effect in the main holiday resorts and no apparent threat to tourists," the firm said last night.



4:30 pm |
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
  CSR 1

Don't you just love acronyms? You might not know exactly what they mean or represent but for a short while everyone uses them. SARS anyone? That did the rounds of Asia a year or two back and now, in Indonesia at least, we have CSR.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a major conference, on the 7th & 8th of this month, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel here in Jakarta. The first I heard of it was a double page spread in the previous Sunday's Jakarta Post, the source of much of my cynicism. I wondered why I hadn't received an invitation. As sole proprieter of Jakartass I seemed to fit the profile.

Participants attend because they see the need to improve their understanding on CSR and be part of the process that will make CSR practices better in Indonesia. They value the public standing of their companies. They know the global environment in which they need to complete.

I certainly need to "improve (my) understanding on CSR". Don't you?

All kinds of wonderful people were involved in the conference organisation, people like Mrs. Yanti Koestoer, Mr. Dedi Nurfalaq, Mr. Duane Gingerich, Mr. Tatang Solihin and Mrs. Maya Tamimi.

The Steering Committee had some more familiar names, such as Prof. Dr. Emil Salim, who would have been my pick as President if he'd cared to stand, Mr. Jakob Oetama of Gramedia and the Kompass Media Group, Mrs. Erna Witoelar, a well-known pioneer activist with NGOs. She began her career in the Indonesian Consumers Association (Yayasan Lembaga Konsumen Indonesia ? YLKI), before assisting in the establishment of the Indonesian Environmental Forum (WALHI), and Mr. Heru Prasetyo, formerly of Price Waterhouse but now involved at a high level in the Aceh Reconstruction. All-round good eggs.

So, what was the conference about and what is CSR?

To get a better idea, perhaps we should look at the key speakers, or for want of who-are-they info, the companies they come from and presumably represent.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present in no particular order PT. Rio Tinto Indonesia, PT Newmont Pasific Nusantara, BP Indonesia, Shell Companies in Indonesia, PT. GE Indonesia, PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP), PT. Unilever Indonesia Tbk and Indofood Sukses Makmur Tbk.

Notice anything in common? Such as the preponderance of non-Indonesian exploiters of 'natural resources'? Not all the links I give highlight transgressions. Just a few, and they really do have problems of demonstrating their corporate social responsibility.

And the topics of the first session did little to indicate that they were interested in the community beyond their immediate social circle.

CSR Benefits for the Business Society
Economic Values of CSR to Business
Creating Enabling Environment for Business
Tax Incentives for CSR
Public Private Partnership for Development

Get the picture? The first session seemed to be about increased profitability for the absentee shareholders.

Mr. Ong Hock Chuan, Technical Advisor for Maverick PR spoke about CSR Communications Best Practices, whatever they are, on the first day. Blogging as Unspun, Ong has actually reinforced my my doubts about CSR, although if Jakartass is to be consistent, this should surely be something I'm advocating.

Throughout I was struggling with the atmosphere of the conference, held at the plush Ritz-Carlton, which was very slick and smelled of corporate showcasing about the do gooding on one hand, and what I felt to be the harsh realities of their do-gooding recipients, who are poor, hungry and quite miserable, on the other.

Yeah, I'm glad I didn't go, although Ong does continue that he thinks, for all its flaws, the conference was a good start in getting the corporate world together to build awareness of and sharing of CSR goals.

Which are ...?

I'll attempt to answer this question in CSR 2, coming to a screen near you soon.


4:00 pm |
Monday, September 18, 2006
  Indonesia's Amazing Bio-Diversity

Under threat from deforesters and bottom feeding fishing fleets from foreign countries, discoveries of hitherto unknown species continue to be made in Indonesia.

Not far from the Foja Mountains, where a Conservation International team earlier this year discovered a "lost world" of rare plants and animals, another CI-led expedition has found a new trove of extraordinary marine biodiversity in a region known as the Bird's Head Seascape.

This weekend Conservation International announced the discovery off the Indonesian province of Papua of 'epaulette' sharks that 'walk' across the reefs at night on their pectoral fins and 'flasher' wrasse, which rise up and down in the water column changing colour into brilliant yellows and pinks as part of their mating display.

Basking in its difference ~ a walking shark

Of perhaps even greater importance is that six sites surveyed proved to have the highest diversity of hard corals ever recorded, each with more than 250 species within a single hectare.

Evidence was also found of bomb-fishing used to stun fish that are collected for food, or as bait for the lucrative shark fin industry and cyanide fishing (which) is used to catch live lobster, grouper, and Napoleon wrasse for export to Asian live seafood markets.

The Indonesian government is making appropriate noises.

"We are now closely examining the survey recommendations and may support the development of a network of fisheries reserves in the region to safeguard this priceless national heritage," says Yaya Mulyana, head of the Indonesian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Affairs' Marine Conservation Department.

Green Indonesia and Jakartass will be watching developments closely.

For more information of Indonesian bio-diversity hot spots click here for Sundaland and here for Wallacea.


By coincidence, back in February when I posted the news about the Foja Mountains, Jakartass was celebrating 40,000 hits and was ranked 49,331st out of 27.2 million blogs by Technorati with 149 links from 44 sites.

Now my stats show that with 169 links from 68 sites, Jakartass is ranked no 39,185 out of a phenomenal 54.3 million blogs being tracked. And tomorrow or the next day my counter will show 60,000 hits.

As always, and to say thanks for your coming, as the actress said and sundry non-native speakers say, I'll send a CD of esoteric MP3 sounds taken from my hard drive to whoever can email me a screen grab of my counter which is closest to that nice round number.

And if Indonesia Anonymus ever come out of their shell, I'll be able to let them have their reward for the 49,998 screen grab they sent me.


9:00 pm |
Sunday, September 17, 2006
  I'm sick as a parrot, Brian

I'm not over cheerful this sunny Sunday. You'd think I would be having last night watched Charlton live on TV for the second weekend on the trot. You'd also probably think I'd be used to us losing, again. But having invested an evening and a fridge full of Bintangs to the expected pleasure, I was seriously disappointed.

I know there are loads of excuses, such as having to field a severely crocked team of amputees and the unfortunate Fortune who had a broken toe, but that's no defence, even though the defence did their best.

I wrote to Frankie Valley last night. If there were a Jakartass award for the best football blog, his would win it.

In fact he has.
Pomp(ey) and (appalling) Circumstance

Hi Frankie,
I ain't happy. There we were giving as good as we got in terms of possession, shots on goal, corners and general 'ere we go, 'ere we go and the six packs of Bintang are into the eighteen packs and ..... we bloody well lose !!!

My voice has gone and the TV's gone deaf 'cos no-one else was bloody listening to me ~ close 'im darn, get back yer lazy git, stoopid ~ and so it went until our heroes really bottled it.

Bring back Kiely I say. He didn't put a foot wrong all game.

I was going to post this earlier but Discovery Channel was showing A Haunting. The house was saved but the evil followed the family. Seemed appropriate somehow.

Ho hum.

Is that our season finished, then?


Frankie Valley : Is our season over, you ask JA? Bloody hell no - we've got another thirty-three games of this torture to go yet.

Yep, I felt so miserable that I've spent the day playing with my toys and listening to some of my favourite music.

And I do feel better for it. Do you want to whistle along with me?



3:30 pm |
Saturday, September 16, 2006
  And So It Flows

Local residents run a-muck

Desperate with unstoppable mudflow from Lapindo Brantas Inc's drilling well, residents of Besuki, Sidoarjo, East Java waged protest. These protesters run amok at Gempol-Surabaya turnpike, crushing cars & the toll road facilities..

What's The Point?
A conglomerate engaged in oil & gas business is preparing the publication of newspaper to be named The Point. It's going to be the first English business paper in the country. The new publisher is currently under spotlight for an environmental disaster that forced more than 10,000 people left their home.

It appears that the publisher is having as little success in starting this new enterprise as in stopping the mudflow.

The 40 paranormals who tried to stop the flow were also unsuccessful, although a second round will be held after the fasting month of Ramadhan, which starts in nine days.

Also, the government is establishing a team to deal with the continuing mudflows issuing from Lapindo Brantas Inc.'s well site in Sidoarjo as the impact of the environmental disaster steadily worsens.

The mud has now spread as far as three kilometres and more villages have become inundated. Obviously there is no way of dealing with the mudflow other than by attempting to leach out the toxicity, possibly through the use of toxin-munching bacteria. However, the paramount need now is surely alleviating the human disaster which has the resulted.

Senior NGO figures and department heads from the Ministry of the Environment are urging the police to use human rights, consumer protection and environment laws to prosecute Lapindo Brantas Inc., the company widely blamed for the hot toxic mudflow.

The above is part of the regular roundup of environmental news pertinent to Indonesia published in Green Indonesia.


3:30 pm |
Friday, September 15, 2006
  Friday's Quote

I found a bag containing a half-eaten 'bun' today. It smelt both very expensive ~ because it could only have been bought in an upmarket mall or at the airport? ~ and bloody awful. It was a Rotiboy bun and this is what I read on the bag.

Note: do not use a microwave or refrigeration


. Are you reading this?


10:00 pm |
Thursday, September 14, 2006
  Today's quote

Spamalot is indeed unstoppable, so much so that it has already been banned in Malaysia, where there had been no plans to stage it.


5:00 pm |
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
  Knickers in a twist.

Some of us in the blogosphere set out to be confrontational. Most of us don't, but Jakartass will always stand up for those folk who I perceive to have yet to learn how to voice their concerns and are treated as lesser citizens by those who know how to manipulate systems to their personal profit.

Thanks to Unspun for bringing the latest Forbes list of 40 Richest Indonesians to our attention.

It's been reported that the richest man, with a fortune of $2.8 billion, is a suspect in a case of misuse of bank funds. His name has been linked to various cases charged by different groups, ranging from deforestation, misusing reforestation fund, illegal logging, fake NCD, having no good faith to settle debts.

There were a few surprises, such as Jakob Oetama, founder of the Kompass newspaper and Gramedia Group. Otherwise it's the usual collection of Suhartoists, thugs with military ties, and those with fortunes from forestry products or cigarettes or Nike sneakers.

However, I think it's a shame that when I point out the absurdity of a dollar billionaire, sixth on the list, escaping his responsibilities as the Minister for People's Welfare for the sake of the shareholders who similarly benefit from the profitability of his family's conglomerate, that I should be taken to task.

I'm asked why I'm so interested to protect those dreaded shrimp farmers - go check the environmental poverty they create. I was writing about the pumping of untreated sludge into the Porong river and note that I continued ... and others dependent on coastal trades. Although shrimp famers are noted for destroying the coastal defences of mangrove swamps, this is not a necessity and I can't say they've done so in East Java. But I was also considering the inland fisherfolk.

That the pumping has been stopped (temporarily?) is to be applauded The amount of toxic sludge which could be sent seawards is as yet unknown - it's still gushing out the ground. We can't therefore quantify the communities whose livelihoods would be affected, nor how far from Sidoarjo they are.

Or do you love krupuk udang so much??

Not particularly. Nor do I like comments from anon like that one. Someone unable to invent a recognisable psuedonym is not able to follow a creative argument so I really wish you wouldn't bother. I don't ask anyone to agree with me nor, in fact, to read my musings although, hey, I'm very grateful that Jakartass is so widely read.

As only 30% of you are based here and my only reader in Belize is Andy Hunt, I do try to lay off the parochialism. So please don't get your knickers in a twist. Keep the comments coming but please keep them civil and leave the ranting to me.


5:00 pm |
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
  More on the mudflow.

Sidoarjo Regent Win Hendrarso demanded Monday that Lapindo Brantas Inc., which owns the gas exploration well that has spewed out a torrent of hot mud since May 29, stop disposing of the mud into Porong River.

The regent said the company did not have the necessary permission from the regional administration and State Minister for the Environment Rachmat Witoelar.

Pressure on the company and the administration to get rid of the mud has been mounting, despite protests by the owners of thousands of shrimp hatcheries, for which the coastal town is famous.

On Monday (yesterday) Bloomberg news agency reported that PT Medco Energi Internasional, the country's largest oil company by market value, would set aside money to pay for damage caused by the flow of mud at the gas exploration well, which it partly owns.

Medco may have to pay as much as US$23.2 million based on its 32 percent share in the field. Lapindo estimates the cost of damages at $100 million, Medco's president Hilmi Panigoro said. Insurance payouts are capped at $27.5 million, he said.

At current estimates, the payments may account for 31 percent of the Jakarta-based company's 2005 profit and may cut its earnings and debt rating.

"To be prudent, we will make a provision ... (and) we will do our best to protect the interests of our shareholders," Panigoro said in an interview (with the Jakarta Post).

Lucky shareholders, eh?

Now, how about the nigh on 10,000 forced out of their homes, the 2,000 forced out of their jobs by the initial mudburst? And how about the shrimp farmers and others dependent on coastal trades about to have their livelihoods wiped out by the toxic mud? And the coral reefs? And...?

Jakartass supports every effort being made by local residents, NGOs and other concerned citizens to force the so-called Minister for People's Welfare to face up to his responsibilities as co-owner (principle and principal shareholder) of the company responsible for this mess. It is not a 'natural disaster'. It is a human error of stupendous proportions brought about by a simple oversight or plain profit-driven malfeasance.

If Abdurizal Bakrie were Japanese and this wasn't the 21st century, he would be expected to commit hara-kiri in order to save his (quite ugly) face. Well, he isn't Japanese, but let's hope we will be spared any future sightings of his jutting jaw.


8:30 pm |
Monday, September 11, 2006
  When I grow up I want to be a train driver

Well, maybe not here as the under-funded KAI (Kereta Api Indonesia = Indonesia Railways) has problems in maintaining its rail network and rolling stock. Accidents are not infrequent.

But there is something romantic about train journeys, if Murder On The Orient Express can be called a romance. Paul Theroux, who made his name from The Great Railway Bazaar, published in 1977, about a circular ride from London via Iran, India, south-east Asia, Japan and Russia, can be called a great romantic.

Theroux is unimpressed by many of the destinations: the tombs of Cain and Abel in India are almost accused of being fakes, Teheran has "little interest" and Afghanistan is "a nuisance". But this inconvenience is made up for by the romance of the trains. It starts with the names: "The Khyber Mail to Lahore Junction", "The Mandalay Express", "The Ozora Big Sky Limited Express to Sapporo", and, of course "The Trans-Siberian Express".

Jakartass likes trains; one of the world's great journeys is from Jakarta to Bandung. Reserve a window on the right and meditate as the gorgeous ever green scenery, passing over deep drops, through kampungs nad rice fields,

Mainly because I hate traffic jams, I have been known to catch cattle class from my local station up to Kota in North Jakarta. For a description of how my life has narrowly stayed on the rails read my archives, in sequence, here, and here, and here.

The local trains are electric and judging from their appearance they are fifty years old at least, except for the secondhand Chinese ones which are express and don't stop at my station any way. Actually, I've just discovered, the rolling stock only (?) dates from 1976.

It can be said, that the development of Jakarta as a metropolitan city ... started (in) 1925, when the development of the electric railway line as the Jakarta circle line was started by the Dutch Colonial Government of the time.

This electric railway line heralded a new era of environmentally friendly mass transportation system, which (was) among the most advanced transportation system in Asia at that time.

It would be really nice if Indonesia's rail network was still the most advanced transportation system in Asia. If it were, there wouldn't be the need to develop busways or a monorail system in parallel with an existing rail route. Jakarta residents may like to know that there are infrequent trains between Manggarai and Tanah Abang.*

Manggarai is the major rail junction in Jakarta, which may not be saying much. However, it retains vestiges of its importance with Dutch buildings and sidings where inter-city express carriages are parked when not going somewhere. And it is here that one of the original electric locomotives can still be seen, the type built by Werkspoor-Heemaf. This locomotive even has a nickname: 'Bon-Bon', due to its boxy shape and attractive color, which resembles chocolate confectionary package.

Now what could be more romantic than naming a train engine after a chocolate box?

Eh? Oh.

Whatever, there is a piece of good news in today's Jakarta Post. Bon-Bon is getting a make over.

Last Saturday afternoon, 29-year-old Paulus Soni Gumilang donned his weekend uniform: shorts, a loose T-shirt, a white bandanna and goggles. Instead of heading to hang-out places like other Jakartans, the copywriter went to state train operator PT KAI's rail yard, Balai Yasa, in South Jakarta's Manggarai to clean up Lok Bon Bon with eight of his friends.

Since 1976, the majority of the electric locomotives had disappeared, as they were scrapped. Only the Werkspoor-Heemaf 3202, which was renumbered as 202, (remains), still derelict at Manggarai Workshop, Jakarta. This locomotive is simply forgotten, and neglected in poor condition. A stark contrast, compared to its meritorious operational days, where it hauled its faithful customers to their ultimate destination.

With members in Semarang, Bandung, Yogyakarta and Jakarta, the Indonesian Railway Preservation Society (IRPS) tries to collect and preserve all forms of available documentation of the transportation service. However, preserving historical data and artifacts like Bon Bon is not easy.

PT KAI has shown support for the effort by planning to transport the historical locomotive to West Jakarta's Kota station and make it into a monument, the state train operator's Jakarta office spokesman Akhmad Sujadi said.

"We have calculated that it would cost around Rp 60 million to repair Bon Bon and take it to Kota station. That excludes the cost of making it into a monument," explained Nova.

Spokesman Sujadi said that to display the locomotive as well as set up a small historical railway library at Kota station would require of fund of up to Rp 200 million. IRPS is currently working with PT KAI and the Jakarta Cultural and Museum Agency to implement the plan.

Respect for history? Great isn't it, though I'm surprised that there isn't a plan to plonk Bon-Bon in the atrium of the latest mall.

* The next day the Jakarta Post published a profile of the commuters who use this not-so-famous rail route. They've set up the Greater Jakarta railway passengers forum - KRLMania - and a website (in Indonesian).


6:00 pm |
Sunday, September 10, 2006
  One man's meat ...

Wars are fought over doctrinal differences, yet I say vive la difference. It's what keeps me here in Indonesia, with one eye on the world out there.

Indonesians suffer from minor ailments unlike any ever diagnosed in the west. They regularly take sick days because of something called masuk angin. This translates as 'air coming in', or, as you and I would say, breathing.

Another rarely fatal symptom, probably because of the vast array of cures, is panas dalam. A rough translation of that is 'hot inside'. I really can't understand that one because if we were dingin dalam (cold inside) we'd be dead and unable to imbibe elixirs, to nose out nostrums (nostrii?) or to partake of panaceas such as:

or ....

So, what are we to make of a technology claimed to produce free, clean and constant energy?

This means never having to recharge your phone, never having to refuel your car, to a genuine solution to the need for zero emission energy production. A world with an infinite supply of clean energy for all.

Steorn is making three claims for its technology:
1. The technology has a coefficient of performance greater than 100%.
2. The operation of the technology (i.e. the creation of energy) is not derived from the degradation of its component parts.
3. There is no identifiable environmental source of the energy (as might be witnessed by a cooling of ambient air temperature).

Jakartass is noted for being blinded by science, but all this does sound too good to be true. If the claims are verifiable, why hasn't the company been subsumed by a major oil company or the USA Defence Department?

Some, well James Randi, are sceptical. "Steorn is in a long line of scam artists who have been selling these free-energy devices for more than a hundred years."

But supposing that there are forces out there which we have yet to discover. Abdurizal Bakrie, for one, hopes there are because having failed to stop the mudflow at Sidoarjo with the technology at his company's disposal, a competition has been organised for paranormals.

After midnight, a site near the center of Sidoarjo's mudflows remains busy -- not with workers trying to stop the constant gray streams, but with mystics attempting to use their supernatural powers to end the disaster for a Rp 100 million (US$10,869) prize.

"Some of the psychics are scary-looking, but there are also those who are gentle and polite. But none of them have stopped the mud," said Titus, the contest's coordinator.

He said the competition had received such a large response that the committee had to limit the number of participants and separate them into several groups. The committee has not set a deadline for contestants to end the flows.

In a screening process, each psychic had to pass a test: turn off a water faucet left on by the organizer with only their supernatural powers.

"With the test, many candidates had to go back home. How can they stop a mudflow if they can't even shut off a faucet," Titus said.

This is one episode of the TV cinetron (soap opera) about the disaster (10,000 homeless, 2,000 jobless) reputedly in production that I'd like to watch.

Bali Bomb survivor rebuilds her life, and others.
"One of the things an experience like mine teaches you, in a big way, is that life is short." She laughs at the inadequacy of the cliché.

Polly Miller founded Dan's Fund for Burns in memory of her husband and her friends who were killed four years ago in the Sari Club bombing.

I wonder if Polly has read Martin Amis' trenchant critique of the grotesque creed of extreme Islamism and the West's faltering response to this eruption of evil.


1:30 pm |
Saturday, September 09, 2006

Residents of major cities in Indonesia may not realise it but the air we breathe is less toxic than it was a year ago. News leaked this week that in July Pertamina has stopped producing leaded gasoline. Apparently it costs an additional US$5 to produce each barrel as lead has to be replaced with another octane booster.

How about producing vehicles which use lower octane fuels? Or practising eco-driving? If drivers were to follow the ten tips given, there could be a reduction of as much as 25% in the fuel used, and discharged as noxious emissions into our air.

This week, a course was held in Cibubur, south of Jakarta, for cement truck drivers. Surely though, it's public transport drivers who cause the majority of hold ups and pollution on our streets. If/when a properly co-ordinated Jakarta Transport Policy is in place, having been through due process of public consultation, eco-driving should be an official section of the driving test here, as it will be in the UK from 2008.

It's well-known that breathing in lead-laden air reduces brain power and intelligence. Has the slightly cleaner air arrived in time to instill some sense into city planners?


1:30 pm |
Friday, September 08, 2006

Jakarta now has a Busway Transfer Station whereby 600 passengers at one time can switch between the three current busway routes. That's good news, according to Governor Sooty.

"This is the biggest station we have. People shouldn't have to wait any longer than 10 minutes between buses (which are 'controlled by Global Positioning Satellite)," said Sooty in his speech.

He arrived 15 minutes late, presumably having journeyed in his official limousine.

and Tide

Anon, in my comments, wonders why I and my fellow bloggers cannot go easy on Abdurizal and his clan and wait for due process of the law to determine that the Bakrie network of companies is responsible for failing to properly seal the hole it was drilling when volcanic mud started to flow in Sidoarjo.

Why do we suggest that in its haste (greed?) to boost its oil reserves, corners have been cut by Lapindo?

Why? Because it appears that Lapindo continues to be negligent in its drilling operations. In attempts to seal off the original flow, they have been drilling down thousands of feet at shallow angles a few kilometres away from the initial well. Now a new mudflow has been spotted in Porong, about a kilometre away. Could there be a connection?

As geologist Soffian Hadi told the Jakarta Post, "If Lapindo can stop it (the mudflow), it will be a blessing from God." You see mud volcanoes are a natural occurence and it is unlikely that any human agency would be able to intervene and overcome the power of nature..

It is paramount, therefore, that if Bakrie wishes to retain what he perceives to be the good name of his family, he (and they) should provide immediate compensation to the 10,000 folk now homeless in Sidoarjo. This compensation should be in the form of (more than) adequate finances to rebuild homes and businesses. By all accounts, his would not be bankrupted by this and may even benefit from such an overt display of Corporate Responsibility.

Failure to do so and the Indonesian blogosphere will side with the formal press (source of my 'facts' today) in order to ensure some public accountability. Isn't that what democracy is about?

NB. If you can read Indonesian, check out the Mud Flow Blog.

More on Munir

Indcoup has dug a little deeper into the mystery of Munir's assassination. What is the connection between Gus Dur, Badan Intelijen Negara (BIN), the USA lobbying firm, Richard L. Collins & Cothe, miltary aid to Indonesia and the stripping of Indonesia's forests?

NB. Much of Indcoup's information comes from an Indonesian journalist of great integrity, Andreas Harsono.


6:00 pm |
Thursday, September 07, 2006
  Thinking of Suciwati

And Soultan Alif Allende and Diva Suukyi Larasati, the widow and children of the late Munir Said Thalib.

Today is a time of sorrow and remembrance. As it should be for all Indonesians, who owe Munir so much for his tireless struggle in the name of human rights.

So says the Jakarta Post in today's editorial.

A year ago today I wrote the following:

It was a year ago today that Munir was assassinated, by arsenic poisoning, on a flight to Holland. What was immediately clear, and remains clear, was that the sinister forces of Suharto's 'New Order' were behind this tragic loss.

In a week when we are outraged to hear that the blackguard Tommy Suharto can seemingly get away with murder ~ sentenced to 15 years, out after four ~ perhaps we shouldn't be surprised to see that no progress has been made to apprehend those behind Munir's assassination.

Tempo reports that 500 members of the Solidarity Alliance for Munir (whose website needs updating) are demonstrating outside the police HQ in South Jakarta, still Seeking Truth and Justice.

I have mentioned Munir 10 times before today. Unfortunately it seems that because SBY is reluctant to release the report he commissioned which, presumably, named names, I'm going to have to continue mentioning him. As will the mass media.



When will Suciwati, her family, friends and the rest of us have closure?


5:00 pm |
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
  Hugging The City

Not many people would want to hug Jakarta. It's filthy, over-crowded, noisy and an incredibly stressful place to live in. That said, those nice people at the Sacred Bridge Foundation are encouraging the city's children to do just that.

A city is a wilderness, but not necessarily in a negative way. From the culture point of view, such a wilderness is indeed full of potentials that are ready to be explored. Knowing the wilderness of the city also means knowing and understanding our roots and characteristics. Being unfamiliar with the wilderness of our Surrounding means that we are alienating ourselves from own home. To help children live more positively, transformative relations with elements of their city have to be built. Based on this thought, Sacred Bridge provides a special program for the urban children to learn about their history and identity, as well as the potential that their homes possess.

This coming Sunday, the 10th,.children aged 7 to 17 (with their parents) are invited to visit a mighty trashmaster who has travelled around Indonesia and a man who can turn used paper into something useful. Participants are also encouraged to bring their cameras as an exhibition will be held at Galeri Foto ANTARA the weekend after.

I like the approach of Sacred Bridge. They are intent on offering opportunities for urban communities to appreciate and admire original and invaluable arts and crafts of the indigenous cultures of the country, thereby valuing our differences.

Their website indicates that their programmes of intercultural dialogue are mostly based on Sacred Rhythm and why not? Music is a universal language and transcends boundaries.

I also like their emphasis on working with children.

"How could those children grow up without knowing the roots of their own culture."

Regular readers of Jakartass will be aware that I intensely dislike the mushrooming malls because they take away valuable recreational space. Having, until 20 years ago, run an organisation for school age children in London offering play and cultural activities - before this park was looking so lovely - I've long hoped that something similar was being offered here.

I hadn't heard of Sacred Bridge before today, but then I only do now because I read every page of the Jakarta Post when I'm stuck in a traffic jam and today I noticed their ad for this Sunday's programme tucked inside the business section.

I hope more such weekends will be organised. Who knows, but you may meet Our Kid and his Dad.


5:00 pm |
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
  Horns of a Dilemma

That's what I'm on. I'm faced with a choice and I'm not sure that either decision would be a win-win one, not that I'm faced with the old Socrates and Euthyphro problem outlined by Plato you understand.

In fact, if you do understand then you're a better moral philosopher than I am, so perhaps you can help by leaving a comment below.

I received this email last night.

Hi there,

I'm Joel from Radio Singapore International. I came across your blog and found it rather interesting. As I'm currently producing a programme that features interesting blogs and their authors from around the region, I was wondering if I could interview you over the phone on Jakartass. It'll touch on topics such as how the blog got started and the issues that it addresses.

Would greatly appreciate if you could get back to me as soon as is convenient!

Thanks and kind regards,

Joel Chua
Radio Singapore International

Ignoring the damning with faint praise ~ only "rather interesting"?!? ~ my quandary is simple. I can answer the first part of the question quite simply and at length. I started Jakartass at a time of extreme under-employment and because there were issues that needed addressing. However, I wonder if I'd be allowed to talk about these on a programme hosted by the Singapore government.

RSI is dedicated to quality broadcasting to external audiences and Singaporeans abroad. It seeks to be a radio of reference for the region, providing a service which is a reliable, accurate and objective source of news and views on international, regional and domestic events. The station will help foster a sense of common purpose through programmes which emphasise good neighbourliness and promote mutual understanding in the social, economic and cultural fields.

That all sounds good and proper but I'd want to talk about how I hoped to encourage Indonesians to express their opinions in a balanced way, to highlight the iniquities of corruption, human rights abuses, the destruction of the environment and the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor here and to generally challenge the status quo ~ all for the sake of developing a mature, caring and pluralistic society.

I've tried not to be a ranter, preferring a quizzical approach even when I'm slagging off that doddering ex-dictator of ours. You see, Indonesia is learning how to live without authoritarian rule, whereas Suharto's old mate, Harry ~ that's Lee Kwan Yew to you and me, and Sir to Singaporeans ~ remains as Minister Mentor of his son, the Prime Minister, and all the other minsterial lackeys.

The lack of authoritarianism means that we no longer go around whispering our subversive thoughts whilst playing Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture at full volume, which we did before reformasi in 1998. We can now say that the Minister of Justice, Hamid Awaluddin, should be prosecuted for corruption and that the Minister for People's Welfare, Abdurizal Bakrie, should resign forthwith in acknowledgement of the environmental and societal disaster his family's company caused by the drilling cockup at Sidoarjo in East Java.

See, we bloggers can say that here and so can the mainstream press. But if all this were taking place in Singapore or its other neighbour, Malaysia, we couldn't. The Singapore press practises self-censorship and the government harasses its bloggers. Full praise to Mr. Brown for stretching the boundaries, albeit as "L'infantile terrible of Singapore" whose other neighbour, Malaysia, is also scared of the perceived power of we bloggers.

Singapore Press Holdings has also acknowledged the power of the blog, but is apparently, by offering a car, resorting to bribery because the poor bloggers who want to write for them would be exposed to some of the most draconian of censorship rules worldwide.

Just a week ago, I posted a satirical piece on bloggers getting paid for flogging whatever and regular readers should by now be used to my plugs for essential goods such as dehydrated water.

So I'm obviously not after a bribe.

I don't drive.

What I am after is a solution to my quandary. Knowing that it is likely that what I have to say could (should?) upset the power(s)-that-be in Singapore, a city that I can enjoy for a one day visa run but definitely would not wish to live in, do I or do I not offer myself for interview?

Indcoup says, "I imagine the interview would be recorded rather than live, so if you talk about freedom to blog they could simply cut it out."

And if they did that then I'd be wasting my time. Probably the best thing to do is to leave it up to the Producer-Presenter of the show. Having read the above, Joel, do you still want me?

"Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure," Reporters Without Borders


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