Sunday, December 31, 2006
  Another year done

Ferry sinks c. 500 passengers drown
The Senopati ran into trouble off Mandalika island, about 300km north east of the capital, Jakarta, amid heavy storms. Huge waves crashed over the bows as the ship was travelling across the Java Sea from Borneo to the port of Semarang, central Java. In the last radio contact, the captain said that the ferry was damaged and capsizing.

Flash floods kill 260+ in Aceh
More than 200,000 persons are estimated affected by widespread floods since 22 December 2006. The confirmed death tool has been reportedly now above 260 with some people still missing. The United Nations is responding to the request by the Government of Indonesia to provide emergency relief to the regions that have been affected.

SBY tells Lapindo to pay compensation
But just 20% by the end of March will be ok. Lapindo has agreed to respond to the government's request and will pay for the houses, factories and community facilities inundated by the volcanic mudflow they set off. Claims, however, must be backed up with land certificates, which only (!) 10% can be.

Lapindo vice president Yuniwati Teryana, who also heads the public relations division, said Lapindo would only purchase land, buildings and rice fields that have ownership certificates. Those who do not have certificates will be given a two-year grace period to get the certificates in which their houses would be rented by Lapindo. Thus the victims would have received two years rent while waiting for the problem to be solved.

"It's a common practice to buy land or building which has a certificate. The certificate is important to ensure legal ownership and it will help prevent conflict among people," she said.

And so another year of disasters passes .....

American puppets hang a man

Camera footage of the final minutes of Saddam Hussein shows him being taunted by Shia hangmen and witnesses, a scene that risks increasing sectarian tension in Iraq.

A shouts at him to "Go to hell". Saddam, seemingly accusing his enemies of destroying the country he once led, replies: "The hell that is Iraq?"

The US military disclosed that an American soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on Saturday, the 2,999th death since the invasion in 2003. But the website www.icasualties.org, yesterday also listed the death of Specialist Dustin Donica, 22, on December 28 as previously unreported, bringing the total to 3,000.

Although the 3,000 figure is symbolically important for Americans, Iraqis suffer that rate of casualties on a monthly basis.

Wishing you what you wish for yourselves in 2007.


10:00 am |
Friday, December 29, 2006
  My Anniversary

Yep, on December 29th 1987 I arrived at Soekarno-Hatta airport from London and I've lived here ever since. As for why, only my biographer and psychoanalyst could answer although the following anecdote, which I've deleted from my rewrite of Culture Shock - Jakarta, may give a clue.

On my first night here, my future boss asked what my priorities were. A beer, a shower a beer, I replied. Well, I didn't get a shower that night. In one of the bars we went in, a colleague had a young lady on each knee and one draped around his neck.

"But I'm gay," he protested.
"I'm not," I thought, "I'm not."

In rewriting Culture Shock - Jakarta over the past few weeks, I've come to realise that there are a few gaps in my knowledge. For example, never having had a full expat package, there are choices I've never had to make and perhaps never wanted to. There's also the factor of having an Indonesian wife and family.

If any of you dear readers are reading Jakartass because you miss the old place yet wonder how you survived, or perhaps wonder why you're still here, I'd love to hear from you, particularly if you can answer some (all?) of the following questions:
And finally, a question for long-term expats: what keeps you here?

Please leave comments below. These would be appreciated as we don't know when 'normal' internet/email service will be resumed. However, if you wish to email me I will treat everything in the strictest confidence and full acknowledgements will be made when the book is published.
So pseudonyms are acceptable (but Anon is not).


5:00 pm |
Thursday, December 28, 2006
  Miracles do happen!

I'm referring to the fact that you are reading this blog entry before I've managed to post a subsequent one.

A series of earthquakes up to 7.1 on the Richter scale hit southern Taiwan yesterday. These 'disrupted' a telecommunications cable connection. It's not just Indonesia that's affected, but also Hong Kong and Singapore, both with excellent telecommunications, lost as much as 80% of their capacity.

Indonesian users are affected by slow data transfer, difficulties in accessing foreign-based sites and disruptions to voice over internet protocol services.
Jakarta Post

Actually, that's an everyday scenario here, but it's definitely now much worse. All we can do is shrug our shoulders and mutter "ho hum" under our breath because there is no way that the powers-that-should-be will get their act together any time soon.

Gatot S. Dewa Broto, a spokesman at the Communication and Information Ministry's Post and Telecommunications Directorate General, told the Post that his office had yet to decide what steps were to be taken by the government, saying that it needed more time to grasp the urgency of the situation.

Read that paragraph again and spot the contradictions.

For years the telecommunications industry in Indonesia has been dominated by Telkom and Indosat. They control the Indonesian satellites, Palapa I and II (*and maybe III). The use of foreign satellites is strictly controlled under the 2005 Satellite Communications Law unless there are reciprocal rights. Hence the hundreds of internet service providers (ISPs) in the country use the alternative cable network.

The disruption to international communications will have drastic ramifications on the economy. Another report in today's Post concerns the 'digital divide' which refers to a report issued by the UN body, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) which theorizes that every 1 percent increase in information and telecommunications technology (ICT) would leverage economic growth by 3 percent.

And in Indonesian terms 1 percent growth would generate c.400,000 jobs. And here are some more (±) statistics as of a year ago:
These statistics demonstrate one thing: telecommunications are largely limited to urban dwellers mainly who live close to the relay stations and the country's wealth. It would be a miracle if that wealth were spread around the rest of Indonesia any time soon.

I'll leave you ~ until who knows when? ~ with a thought from the Guardian which, in its blinkered utopianism, is at odds with the realities here. Maybe in two or three decades .......

For two or three decades, economists and philosophers have questioned whether technology and rising wealth automatically mean greater well-being. In 2006, we finally realised that we are too inattentive to what makes us happy, a crucial step forward. Happiness is about earning the esteem of others, behaving ethically, contributing selflessly to human betterment and assuaging the need to belong. We have finally understood it is not economic growth that delivers these results - it is the way we behave.

(* SMALL PRINT: Apologies for any inaccuracies in this post. I don't have access to a search engine.)



9:13 am |
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
  Two Years Ago Today.

President Clinton, whose two-year term as the UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery ends this month, has delivered his final report. In it he stresses that the extraordinary efforts witnessed so far will need to continue for years to come.

"As we have learned in other parts of the world in the wake of disasters of this scale - from Kobe to New Orleans, Tangshan to Bam - rebuilding the physical, social and human capital of shattered communities takes years."

Two years ago I wrote the following:

Vigil in Jakarta

A prayer vigil is being held in Jakarta tonight.

Masli, the husband of Ida, a school friend of 'Er Indoors, has rung Ida from Banda Aceh to say that there is no trace of their house. Inside were Yuli, 24, wife of Abral, and their year old daughter, Novi, 22, due to graduate as a doctor next year and Cut Nong, 12, awaiting school results in order to enroll in junior high here in Jakarta.

Most of Abral's family is missing as well. He was in Medan on business when the tsunami struck.

Hope has been extinguished.

We never saw Ida's granddaughter, but she and her daughters visited here several times, the last time being Idul Fitri last year. Another daughter, Dewi, stayed with us for six months to complete her schooling whilst the rest of the family ran a restaurant in Banda Aceh.

This feeling of loss is shared by many, many thousands of families across Indonesia and in the other affected countries around the Indian Ocean.

It is impossible to find adequate words.

Abral has married Dewi.
Ida is fostering 3 Acehnese orphans
Masli died in September. We think he died of a broken heart.


7:00 am |
Saturday, December 23, 2006
  Immaculate Conception

Flora, a komodo dragon in Chester Zoo, England has given birth yet hasn't enjoyed conjugal bliss for ..... well, the zookeepers aren't saying. Her eggs were produced by a process called parthenogenesis - meaning 'virgin birth' in Greek - in which females produce offspring without fertilisation from a sperm.

It also happens in sharks, but what if it were true with humans? Most Americans believe it is even though the notion of 'virgin birth' was a tenet pre-dating Christianity by at least 1,000 years.

Virgin-birth was the responsibility of the Ishtar priestesses, who conducted fertility rites, prophesied and performed elaborate rituals in the temples throughout Babylon. The priestesses who administered the temples also managed a lucrative prostitution business that provided a steady stream of financial support for temple activities.

Upon their return to Palestine, Hebrews of the Babylonian captivity brought back to the Mediterranean peoples wondrous tales of the priestesses and their blasphemous sexual ministries to the men who visited them.

But supposing women could practice parthenogenesis and reproduce like sharks and komodo dragons. Just think about it, guys. No paternity suits and DNA tests necessary because we wouldn't have to go around strutting our stuff and trying to impress 'Er Indoors. Machismo would be so yesterday. How many wars would be avoided?

Helen of Troy could have carried on powdering her nose, Boadicea would have stayed in the kitchen burning the cakes and Maggie Thatcher too. (But she doesn't deserve a link because she's a ghost of Christmases past.)

What am I on about? We men are still indispensible. Mary got Joseph to cart her around until he found a cattle shed for her to give birth in. We guys are still the homemakers, emergency nappy changers and defenders of the hearth.

Have a good Xmas, whatever you believe.

Flora the Parthenogenetic Explorer

Footnote: "We were blown away when we realized what she'd done," said Kevin Buley (Bule??), a reptile expert at Flora's home at the Chester Zoo. "But we certainly won't be naming any of the hatchlings Jesus."


10:00 am |
Thursday, December 21, 2006

of Jakartass are a few newish blogs.

Aroeng Binang has passed by here a few times and writes interestingly on corruption.

Indonesians are familiar with mo-limo, a Javanese teaching on the five deadly sins.
Can we eradicate mo-limo from earth? We can't, of course. Hence eradicating corruption is just a slogan. What we shall do is to control the magnitude by introducing completely transparent processes, systems and procedures. Reward and punishment shall also be improved and executed.

Simon, the Opinionated Diner, offers some thoughts on a training course being offered for traffic policemen in Bali. He is surprised (aren't we all?) that they need training in corruption and offers the students the following advice.

Jakarta Guru, a teacher in a national plus school has discovered a new blog, Performing Monkeys, set up by Miss Brodie who is not yet in her prime as she looks at the role of the white face in the classroom, and other issues in education.

The Ministry of Tourism is in need of a copy editor whereas Indonesian Destinations, from the same stable of blogs as Indonesian Celebrities, isn't.

Alexandrite offers a Daily Dose of just plain vanilla, life as it is. And very philosophically poetic it is too.

Zodia is a plant that gives out a powerful fragrance that can repel insects. To us humans, it smells good. You can smell the fragrance carried by the wind even tens of meters away. But we cannot go further than that. As much as we like the smell, we cannot swallow it. So, it is with flattery. We are not to swallow it. It has no use for our well being. It may even be dangerous to our health. Praise to an individual must be given sparingly - like precious metals and gems that owe their value to scarcity.


4:00 pm |
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
  Big Brother

News that the UK government has backed down over plans to make it 'compulsory' for all patient records to be online is welcome.

In brief, the notion was that doctors should upload patients' files to a central database, which, proponents say, could save the lives of vulnerable elderly people if paramedics gained instant access to information about their medication and their GP's most recent diagnosis.

Opponents of the scheme have objected to the scheme because it runs counter to the long-held doctor-patient confidentiality tenet. Who would access the records or, perhaps more importantly, who could?

Seventy five pounds for an ex-directory number, £150 for the address a car is registered at and £500 for a criminal record. These are just some of the tariffs that the information commissioner last week revealed had been paid by journalists for personal data, exposing how established the market in snooping has become, in spite of strong theoretical safeguards.

Earlier, the Department of Health insisted that anyone wanting to be left off the database should apply in writing stating why they object. In other words, they had to give officials the precise information they didn't want to go on record. Now patients can ask their doctors not to upload their files.

There are no personal worries for Jakartass in all this; I live here. However, given that all citizens of Indonesia and long-term expatriate residents will shortly have personal details on an electronic database, there are parallels here. The government is reactivating its Regional Intelligence Community (Kominda), supposedly to gather grassroots intelligence on our terrorist fraternity.

Also, unless the newly passed Civil Registration Law is amended, there will be scope for further isolating particular groups. One article at least will worsen the discrimination faced by minority groups in the country. This article requires citizens to identify their religion, one of the six recognized by the state - Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

Such religious identification runs counter to the Constitution, especially Article 28 (e), which guarantees freedom of worship and religion, and which recognizes non-denominational beliefs.

As the Jakarta Post commented, "Lawmakers, particularly those from Islamic-oriented parties in the House of Representatives, seem to have forgotten past incidents of interreligious violence. Often, such violence saw groups of people from one religious group conduct illegal identification card checks, looking for people from a different religion. Once found, these unfortunate people were often beaten black and blue, or worse."

Was it really "people from one religious group" or was it, as popularly supposed in Poso and elsewhere, people from the state apparatus?

I doubt that any electronic database can be guaranteed safe from hackers. Having one with extraneous information is a danger to society. Those those with access to the information, and especially those who from their positions of power claim to represent society, can distort or manipulate the information for personal ends, as Nixon did.


6:10 pm |
Monday, December 18, 2006
  Jakartass Persons Of The Year

If you haven't got the time to download the front page of Time, then consider this to be a time saver.

YOU are the person of the year. Wow, wonderful, you cry, but why? Apparently it's because you're reading this.

It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

It's not ME though, because I live in Indonesia. In fact it's not about the vast majority of US here because very very few have access to this new-fangled thing called Web 2. Yep, it's about YouTube, podcasts, MySpace and Friendster.

Web 2.0 is a massive social experiment, and like any experiment worth trying, it could fail. There's no road map for how an organism that's not a bacterium lives and works together on this planet in numbers in excess of 6 billion. But 2006 gave us some ideas. This is an opportunity to build a new kind of international understanding, not politician to politician, great man to great man, but citizen to citizen, person to person. It's really a revolution.

Sounds great, eh? But this is one area where a great deal of 'trust', or perhaps faith, is required.

It's a mistake to romanticize all this any more than is strictly necessary. Web 2.0 harnesses the stupidity of crowds as well as its wisdom. Some of the comments on YouTube make you weep for the future of humanity just for the spelling alone, never mind the obscenity and the naked hatred.

I would like to access archived materials, to watch TV from around the globe and to feel part of the Global Village, one in which I get to choose my neighbours. I'm sure YOU would too. Being dependent on the local media is not that beneficial for an emerging democracy. If only the vested interest of the shareholders in our telecommunications providers were not seemingly of greater importance than the customers who pay over the odds for an appalling outdated service.

So, here are a few Jakartass Persons of 2006.

1. The electors in Aceh who have not only rejected the candidates sponsored by Jakarta but in so doing have rejected the religious fundamentalism being imposed. Acehnese have chosen choice.

2. Suciwati, the widow of the assassinated human rights activist, Munir.

Suciwati's intent has been to build international awareness of her husband's case before a verdict is handed down. She has also helped turn her late husband's case into a litmus test of Indonesia's ability, under the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to face a sometimes gruesome past and establish a credible judicial system.

3. All new bloggers in Indonesia, in whatever language is used. The mere act of writing and exposing one's thoughts to the world at large is an act against entrenched attitudes, the notion that Father knows best. Hopefully in 2007 we can work together, be a collective force for change, whether it be against corporate incompetence and lack of social responsibility or for improved public transport.

The choice is ours to make.

4. And finally, a good friend back in Blighty might like to know that some folk think that 2006 has been the Year Of Bacon (even though the Year of the Pig is next year). This is because:
  1. Bacon is really tasty.
  2. People who don't eat bacon obviously have issues.
Is bacon not the metaphor for all of our fears and desires?

May next year be a peaceful one. Peace Though Pork anyone?


1:00 pm |
Sunday, December 17, 2006
  As the sayings go ....

... Nostalgia is what it used to be, so I think I've already seen the film Déja Vu currently doing the rounds. But I know that I can't have seen the TV programmes reviewed here.

Very occasionally - so occasionally, indeed, that I can't recall the last time it happened - a drama will pack a punch that leaves you breathless and shaken. Bodies did this, then left me sobbing proper big fat tears. I think it might have been a panic attack, or the next worst thing.

The question is, would it, nay, could it have been shown in Indonesia? Eight private TV stations have been reported to the police by the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission for airing programmes of a sexual and violent nature. Sexual and violent, or sexual or violent? Whatever, with titles like Love and Lust, Whispering Lust and Laughter Special (eh?), it's obvious that the moral outrage is justified.

Dramatised violence, such as Smackdown which features steroid enhanced stunt actors strutting their stuff, is too shocking for local folk. Much better to watch shows that feature road accident victims, grieving widows and criminals with black eyes following pretrial retribution.

So the TV drama series I mentioned above, which is about life and death in a hospital's obstetrics/gynecology department, with an eoisode which reduced a TV critic to tears because her déja vu was real, could not and would not be shown here. But should be.

... Ahmet Ertegun had great ears.
Founder of Atlantic Records, he helped to document some of the most important music of the 20th century and his death two days ago at the age of 83 following a fall, severs a vital link to some of the most significant chapters in the development of soul, rhythm & blues, jazz and rock.

Influential musicians he helped to discover or nurture include: Big Joe Turner, Professor Longhair, Ruth Brown, Mabel Mercer, Bobby Short, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, The Drifters, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Bobby Darin, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, the Rolling Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Young Rascals, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills & Nash, Allman Brothers, Foreigner, Dusty Springfield, Stevie Nicks, Jewel, Sean Paul and Matchbox 20 .......

... God helps those who help themselves.

I'd helped myself to this picture before settling into another two hour demonstration of how much more together other teams are than the one I've supported all my life. When I first went to the Valley 50 odd years ago, they had just been relegated from the top division, but I was excited by the whole idea of local folk having local heroes. There are still local heroes involved. The problem is that few were on the pitch yesterday. And it looks as if they're going to be relegated again.

Ho hum


11:30 am |
Friday, December 15, 2006
  No Mercy and Non Merci

No Mercy ?
Lapindo Brantas Inc. may have agreed to buy all the land affected by the mudflow in Sidoarjo, but they have yet to agree compensation for the 'contents' - houses, factories, community facilities, rice fields et al. What is perhaps worse is their callous disregard for the welfare of those affected by the disaster, a disaster initially caused by the incompetence of their oil drilling crew. Many thousands, 13,000 and rising, are still waiting adequate financial compensation or emergency expenses.

17 year old Arifah was on her way to help a relative pack up and move to a shelter in a covered market - where 8,000 people are currently sheltering - when she slipped into the encroaching hot mud. As reported in this morning's Jakarta Post, she is now in hospital with 35% of her body burned. Lapindo is exceedingly tardy in paying her hospital expenses.

The co-ordinator of the rescue and evacuation volunteers, Adjie, is quoted as saying, "There continues to be a threat to safety. ... People should be very careful since there's no guarantee for people's lives or safety from the government or Lapindo."

Thirteen people are known to have died, some burned beyond recognition, when a gas pipeline exploded on 23rd November.

In keeping with the sub-heading, I suggest that the Bakrie clan, owners of Lapindo and much else, including some of the media which 'informs' us, should henceforth be known as the Bakery clan.

Non Merci?
At the Asian Games currently drawing to a close in Doha, Qatar, Japan hammered Taiwan 7-0 in the softball final in a game shortened to five games due to the mercy rule, also well known by the slightly less polite term slaughter rule or, less commonly, knockout rule and skunk rule.

Well known? Well, not to me, but that could be because it is very rare in competitive sports beyond the high school level and the only competitive sport I play in is the Bintang Cup. The rule is better known as 'knocked sideways'. and is is awarded to the bozo who can booze the most Bintangs.

The next rounds of this open sport are tonight at Ya Udah in Jl. Jaksa where the Annual Xmas BlogFest is being held. See you there?


7:30 am |
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
  Alice In Wonderland World.

The presumed victory in the Aceh gubernatorial election of a former 'rebel leader', Irwandi Yusuf, a senior figure in the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), and activist Mohammad Nazar is to be applauded, but not so much because of who they are.

That a free election can be held in a province which just two years ago was in a state of civil war is in itself a matter of high praise. Some would say that this could only have been achieved because of the cataclysmic aftermath of the tsunami of just under two years ago which, in insurance terms, can be labelled an Act of God.

Four years ago, the Aceh or Nanggroe Aceh Darusallam administration officially put the special autonomy law and syariah (Islamic law) into effect. Presumably it was Allah, rather than Jehovah, who was responsible for the tsunami. I say this with some reluctance and in no way wish to denigrate a faith which, I've always thought, propagated peace rather violence.

In Aceh traditional ways - referred to as 'adat' - have in the past been a very important authority for regulating daily life. The role of adat is recognized in Indonesian law, and was central to the role of Acehnese rulers in pre-colonial Aceh. This adat or 'custom', being linked to the secular authority of the sultan, was always a balance to the shari'a. The recent introduction of shari'a law in Aceh is part of a centuries-long process of Islamising Acehnese culture, ultimately replacing adat with shari'a.

Aceh has already caned gamblers in public and now, it has been reported, there are calls for fuller implementation of sharia law in that thieves should have their hands amputated.

This would, of course render these criminals 'armless and prevent them from carrying out further robberies. One must hope, however, that the sharia thought police in Aceh don't follow the insane logic of their counterparts in Bulo Burto, a town in Somalia.

The chairman of the town's Islamic court, the aptly named Sheik Hussein Barre Rage, has issued an edict, which comes into force on Friday, which requires residents to pray five times a day. Those who don't will be beheaded. That'll learn them .... erm ....

Thankfully, the edict is not binding on courts in other towns. And won't be, one hopes, in Aceh. Wouldn't some routine and systematic torture be more humanitarian?


6:00 pm |
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
  Another Religious Affair

The mocking of men who wear long dresses is not confined to the Indonesian blogosphere. The tale of the current Bishop of Southwark, a diocese in south London, is doing the rounds in the British media and, I feel, needs further circulation as, it seems, he is already celebrating a Merry Xmas. Besides, we all like to laugh at the downfalls of others or, as in this case, the fallings down.

(Before any of you ask what relevance this has to Jakartass, I would only comment that as a callow youth I was confirmed into the Church of England by the then Bishop of Southwark, Mervyn Stockwood, who was popular in the media for his radicalism and because he was eminently quotable.

"A psychiatrist is a man who goes to the Folies-Bergère and looks at the audience."

The strange case of the bishop and the black eye

What happened to the Bishop of Southwark last Tuesday night? Was he mugged on the way home to Tooting from a pre-Christmas party at the Irish embassy? Or was he found wandering in a confused state in Crucifix Lane, near his cathedral, having supped not wisely, but too well?

The Rt Rev Tom Butler, 66, one of the Church of England's most senior bishops says he has no idea. Others say he was seen sitting in the back of a Mercedes chucking children's toys out of the window and announcing: "I'm the Bishop of Southwark. It's what I do."

What he can remember is attending the pre-Christmas reception at the Irish embassy near Buckingham Palace. These are events not noted for their abstemiousness. MPs have been known to leave on their hands and knees.

"I can remember the reception. It was one of those pre-Christmas receptions with drinks and nibbles, with interesting conversations and interesting people. I had a drink," said the bishop, with what may or may not be a degree of understatement. "There lies the difficulty. I am not in a position to say dogmatically anything more about it. I have no memory of what happened. I came home certainly with an injury and with a loss of property."

The cathedral's dean, the Very Rev Colin Slee, said last night: "This would be utterly out of character. This is a serious guy. Lots of things in the story don't add up." One such thing may be how the bishop's briefcase appears to have turned up in the office of a tabloid newspaper before being handed to the police.

A fuller account can be found here.


9:00 am |
Monday, December 11, 2006
  Annual Blogfest

Jakartass (on left) with Indcoup at Blogfest 2005

"I'd love to see who's behind the blogs that I follow. What kind of personalities go along with the online aliases? I had the honor to already meet some, I'd like to meet more."

Personalities? We ain't got none, which is why we hide behind online aliases. Offline we're just a bunch of reprobates who you wouldn't take home to mother. However, we are meeting this Friday in a public place for a few early evening Bintangs so if you do want to meet the following, who've already said that they'll be there, please email me for further details.

The Reveller
Ong from Unspun
KuKuKChu from JakChat
The Man Behind Metro Mad
Riccardo from Gentlemen, Revolutionaries, Scholars & Bules

I have yet to hear back from Mr. Treespotter, but I hope that he, as well as his partner in a new blog, Hokum Pokum , a Harvard-educated Indonesian lawyer going by the name of In_absentia, will be in praesentia.

Apologies for absence
Friskodude has been unavoidably detained, perhaps for the next five years.
Jen from Queensland is eager to get here but will have to wait until next year.


5:00 am |
Sunday, December 10, 2006
  Keeping the faith

This is a bit of a gloomy Sunday in Jakartass Towers. Maybe it's because the atmosphere is oppressive with a pending tropical storm which will surely test our roof. Or maybe it's an accumulation of snippets which don't make for optimism.

Religious Affairs

1. Parliament has just passed a new Civil Registration Bill containing a very contentious article: citizens are required to denote their religion which has to be one of only six 'official' religions - Islam, Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Perhaps a seventh should be added to the list - Suhartoism.

Church and State go hand in hand with greed and hate.

2. As chair of the Religious Affairs Ctte. of Golkar, in parliamentary terms the largest political party, Yahya Zaini was behind the introduction of the Anti-Pornography Law. Now, thanks to a mobile phone with a video camera, everybody can see for themselves that he is not very powerful and wonder how, in an extra-marital affair, he made a now famous dangdut singer pregnant.

He will probably get to keep his seat in Parliament. She may be prosecuted for having an abortion - at his instigation.

3. Another religious affair which is gripping the country's media is that of hitherto respected Muslim cleric, Abdullah Gymnastiar, popularly known as A'a (elder brother) Gym. He has taken a second wife, a 38 year old widow and former photo model, Alfarini Eridani. Polygamy, some argue, is ok for Muslim men if their first wife agrees and she can no longer bear him children or is otherwise incapacitated.

Aa Gym justifies his action by saying: "Women tend to be monogamous, that's how their 'software' is ... But men, you know... their 'software' is different." He also comments: "All around us, promiscuity is rampant, children being born out of wedlock is tolerated."

He has demonstrated this by fathering seven children with first wife Ninih Muthmainah. I suspect she's had enough, but who are we to question the arrangement? It's not, thankfully, our affair.

Moral Affairs

Public trust in the government's efforts to fight corruption has plummeted from 81 percent last year to 29 percent this year, a survey has found.

The Global Corruption Report issued yesterday by corruption watchdog Transparency International and pollster Gallup International found that 50 percent of 1,000 Indonesians interviewed in mid-2006 said efforts to fight corruption were not effective.
Jakarta Post


It's said that heroin addicts put up with the bad times because they really enjoy the initial high. That must be why I watched every minute of Charlton's humiliation last night. .

On a good day .....


10:00 am |
Saturday, December 09, 2006
  It's that time of year again.

Time to reflect on the huddled masses of the unwashed and unloved, the poor and homeless, the physically and/or mentally disadvantaged and all the others exercising their democratic right to shop.

They need help, and so do I. What can I buy for 'Er Indoors?

Well, who better than Santa himself who is great at hunting out bargains?

Like all outdoorsmen, Santa relishes his time spent outside .... (and he) will bring smiles and yuletide thoughts to children and adults alike. On his way to his favorite hunting spot, Gone Hunting Santa carries his trusty rifle along with a wool bedroll and lantern to light the way.

It goes without saying, that the great unwashed will first go looking for soap. And there can be nothing better than Paper Soap, which is certainly a new idea in gift toiletries. It comes in a range of colours: red, pink, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple, and scents: rose, lavender, ocean, apple, lemon and strawberry. Next year they promise to offer self-cleaning newsprint.

'Er Indoors has just told me that she prefers an all-purpose soap so I've chosen something really special for her from Angelique Secret Skin Products so I'm not going to tell you what it is.

We are into beauty. We are more concern of making things easy. Beauty is once necessity that's why for us it is a folk of art.

Whatever, isn't Xmas about magic? Perhaps 'Er Indoors would prefer something from Funky Mommy.

AMIRA MAGIC CREAM helps illuminate skin while you sleep and which performs its own even under the sun. It is not only for your beautiful face, but also for your beautiful body, designed for unique uses and benefits - whitens your underarm while eliminating body odor, eliminates stretch marks and whitening inguinal (eh? ... oh!) area. It is formulated with real magic whitening complex to effectively lighten dark skin, blemishes, freckles, discoloration and even pimples and scars. You will see the difference in as early as 5-8 days, depending on the skin type and skin's absorption of the cream.

The mixture is based on the Ingredients that are proven to be safe and effective: - Leukocytes extract, chamomilla recutita extract, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, cyclomethicone, butyl, methoxydibenzoymethane, phenoxyethanol, glycerine, carbomer, perfume and agua.

(Apply a small quantity of Amira Magic Cream at the back of the hand and leaving it for four minutes. If redness does not occur then you may use the cream safely.)

Wow. Sounds like they really care, so instead I'm going to buy for 'Er Indoors a lifetime's supply of Placenta Soap which prevents further wrinkle formation and lightens pigmentation and dark spots. It also stimulates the skin mitabolism snd provides moisture therefore skin becomes radiant and fresh.

Just the thing in the absence of a rainy season.


11:00 am |
Thursday, December 07, 2006
  Let's Slag Off SBY

I don't actually have any here because I'm an expat, but if I did have democratic rights there are some I couldn't have exercised until yesterday. I could not have called SBY a "%$@*& anchor" for example, nor could I have burned him in effigy, let alone publish a photoshopped picture of him having a gay old time with Suharto's eldest son.

But now, the Constitutional Court has scrapped three articles in the old criminal code which, according to this quote from the Jakarta Post, undermined the country's process (sic) toward democracy and caused confusion because they were subject to subjective interpretations. (This presumably indicates that the Court does not object to objective interpretations.)

The criminal and civil codes are still largely based on the Dutch colonial law which was often used by Suharto during his thirty years in power to silence his critics. Having published the picture of SBY linked to above, I could have faced up to six years in jail. Thankfully, I can now breath easier, as can those activists who are campaigning for the rights of all those who have little protection because they are not among the élite.

It is worrying that four of the nine judges dissented from this ruling saying that the President's dignity must be protected. I've always believed that respect has to be earned and, on that score, SBY is doing well. If he were photoshopped cavorting with a dangdut singer, for example, I'm sure he would be big enough to rise above it.


9:00 am |
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
  Unsynthesised Manifold

The first attribute of the art object is that it creates a discontinuity between itself and the unsynthesised manifold.

Germaine Greer wrote the sentence above in an article published in the Guardian and she is somewhat unhappy that she has been awarded the Golden Bull Award by the Plain English Campaign for it.

As she says, "Most reasonably educated Guardian readers would, I faintly hope, have recognised the phrase "unsynthesised manifold" as an English version of a basic concept in Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgment, first published in English in 1790 and familiarised in Britain by the work of Coleridge and just about anybody else who writes about aesthetic theory. The expression endures because in more than 200 years no one has found a better way of rendering the idea, although its content continues to evolve with changes in our understanding of brain function and the mechanics of perception."

Faint hopes indeed, Germaine. Still, as you acknowledge, you are full of Kant.

"I can still remember the excitement of reading the Critique for the first time 50 years ago, and basking in the glow of Kant's beautiful mind."

And we also know why, as you slip into your senior years, you are getting somewhat cantankerous.

I was tempted to leave the above, or something similar, in the comments below Ms.Greer's article. However, they are already manifold and could well make you laugh out loud if, like me, you are a "reasonably educated Guardian reader".


10:00 am |
Monday, December 04, 2006
  Since you ask

Yep, we had a lovely time, thank you. The beds were comfortable, the sound of waves is still lulling and the beer was great. But you know me. If I can find something to grumble about, I will. Now where to start?

The taxi to Jakarta's airport will do. The driver wanted to go the long way round the city instead of straight through it. Then he went way too fast, enough to make Our Kid and I cower in our back seat. And the driver had the effrontery to bitch at me when I told him to slow down and stop weaving between traffic lanes. At the airport I paid him the exact fare on the meter: Rp.68,500 rather than rounding it up as per usual. That'll learn him.

Then to the Air Asia checkin where I asked for a window seat but the lass behind the desk didn't tell me that there were no seat allocations. Ok, fares do. So we waited in the lounge fifteen minutes beyond the scheduled boarding time until the time came to stand up, queue up and then wait at the exit gate, which as Our Kid pointed out is really a door.

And we waited and waited. Why? Because Air Asia which prides itself on its low cost (= cheapskate) fares had only rented one bus. A bus? To the plane in Air Asia livery parked in front of our waiting area? Nope ~ a bus to the plane parked a good five minutes away by bus at the furthest limits of the airport. Out of sight, out of mind? Well so it seemed as we were dropped off at a door into another terminal area with no access to anywhere, let alone our plane. There were 50 of us milling around behind locked doors, with no staff able to give directions.

Oh, how we laughed, before we wended our way through the maze of corridors and onto our Boeing 737 and into our extremely cramped seats at the rear. It now being lunchtime we looked forward to our hard boiled egg and chocolate bread, only to discover that these were non-existent. As in a restaurant, you are not allowed to consume your own food on an Air Asia plane. On our flight, the ubiquitous nasi goreng (fried rice) was habis (finished), which was strange because we were amongst the first to be (non) served. Ho hum.

When we arrived, we were met; our driver and escort were exceedingly warm and friendly and we drove at a pace to take in the fact that there wasn't any pollution, that the rainy season is needed there as well, that there is a spiritual dimension to Bali sorely lacking here in Jakarta and that this was to be a real break from the forces seemingly arraigned against us back in the Big Durian.

Yes, since you ask, a two-nighter in Bali is truly wonderful, especially as we had the run of the hotel to ourselves on the first night. It is the off season to be sure, but to be in a resort, Candidasa, with no tourists that we could perceive is somewhat sad. And this particular resort, albeit with the east coast road running through the middle, has restaurants overlooking the sea.

So Our Kid can now hold his breath underwater, Son No.1 deserves to be successful and I now know where to get some truly outstanding Real Ale.

Bottle Fermented

When will there an outlet or ten in Jakarta?


9:00 am |
Friday, December 01, 2006
  Click Bellow

Until I checked their website, I expected a nice quiet and relaxing weekend because this is where I'll be for the next two nights with Son No.1 and Our Kid.

Now I'm not so sure.


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