Friday, November 30, 2007
  Jesus Saves
... in an offshore account?

A seminar is being held in Jakarta tomorrow, Saturday, at a venue known as Serenity Towers. Its aim is to coerce local Christians into paying loads of money to learn how to earn loads of money because it is their God-given right to do so during their infinitesimally short time here on Earth before, like the diamonds they flash, they return to the earth.

Whereas many Muslims treat the Koran, their Holy Book, as the, ahem, gospel truth, many Christians, generally Protestants, rather than taking to heart the purported words of Jesus - "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" - ask themselves "Why not gain the whole world plus my soul?".

Naturally these perverts of the truth, sorry - THE TRUTH, find justifications for their greed.

"Ask of me and I will give you the heathen for thy inheritance and the outermost part of the earth for thine possession."
Psalms 2.8

That, presumably, is the justification for having crucifixes made in the sweatshops of a factory in Dongguan City in heathen China.

The mostly young, female employees work from 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. seven days a week and are paid 26 cents an hour with no sick days or vacation. Workers live in filthy dormitories and are fed a watery 'slop'.

On reading stories like these, one may be tempted to dismiss religions as being contemptuous of humanity. It is encouraging, however, to discover that an awareness of ethical investment does exist among some Christians.

Being a good steward of one's financial resources also means making money in an ethical way that is compatible with Christian values.

Also, the Bible points out that part of the blessing of having money is to use it to help others and further the Kingdom of God: "If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother"
(Deut 15:7, King James Version).

Jakartass was raised in a predominantly Christian environment because that was the England of the post-war years. I have since learned that wars are fought and terrorist outrages are perpetrated in the name of false prophets by folk who think that life here on Earth is so shite that their only purpose is to destroy it.

Then there are those who wish to wrest the riches of the Earth for their own ends from the heathens who occupy the surface above. Those who argue against these despoilers or suggest alternative points of view are labelled as blasphemers or infidels.

Building edifices for the supposed glorification of one's gods is a timeworn practice. Grand mosques, temples and cathedrals are dotted around the globe, with a few mountain sized Buddhas to watch over them. Here in Jakarta, as my good friend Indcoup has reminded us, the Bethany Church is the force behind Christ's (and the world's) tallest erection, the planned Jakarta Tower. Amongst the treats in store for the hoped for 40,000 visitors a day will be a mega mall, something that is sorely needed here. (Sick joke sic transit.)

There are various cults who believe that with the Second Coming of Christ, True Believers will be carted off to heaven. I'm not sure how many virgins and/or gigolos will be available, but that sure as hell sounds attractive to some. What I'd like to know, however, is what Jesus would buy, apart from a new pair of sandals.

This is a valid question because this is a feeble attempt at giving a plug to a new documentary available on DVD called What Would Jesus Buy?. Made by the Reverend Billy, this follows a church choir called "The Church of Stop Shopping," which crosses the USA singing anti-shopping and anti-corporate songs. I presume that the Rev is also a major supporter of such initiatives as the Buy Nothing Day which took place last Saturday, the 24th.

Unfortunately, I had no advance notice of it, even though there is an Indonesian website and it was celebrated here in Jakarta with a free market in Sambas Park, which lasted from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and provided free food, clothes, free T-shirt printing, book readings, acupressure, a free acting class and an introduction to Braille from the Mitra Netra Foundation for the blind.

Ika Vantiani, 31, from a community called the Dipepi Free Food Gang, said that Buy Nothing Day was intended to counter consumerism and to promote the concept that sharing was better than buying.

The event, however, took a not unsurprising turn for Jakarta, with more people turning up looking to get freebies than to give. Ika had initially announced the free market on a number of mailing lists in her network. However, radio stations and newspapers interviewed her before the event and hence the rapacious throngs.

At least 100 people visited the park, with many of them not quite grasping the concept behind the free market. Strangers to the idea of sharing and 'Buy Nothing Day', many of the visitors appeared hell bent on grabbing everything in sight.
(fr. Jakarta Post)

"Rapacious throngs .... hell bent on grabbing everything in sight"? Shopping and sweatshops as the new religion?

It's 'Christians' like these who are the patrons and managers of various educational establishments here which, they claim in their missionary zeal, will produce the country's élite. In spite of their earnest speeches, in practice teachers remain exploited and underpaid, and Indonesia continues to slip down the international ranking lists related to the quality of education. (cf. UNESCO - Education For All Global Monitoring 2008, released yesterday, shows Indonesia has slipped to position 62 - out of 130 surveyed - from 58 last year.)

But sharing, caring, with no financial reward? Offering free classes for the poor, campaigning against sweatshops and trafficking, concerned about the excesses of a consumerist society and hopeful that there still can be an Earth fit for future generations? What kind of people are these?

Simple, they are unsung heroes who believe in the inate power and goodness of the rakyat (common people). They also recognise that there's a thin line between good and evil. What do you see?

What I see is that folk who profess to take the words of the Bible (and the Koran) as the literal truth are following their own thought processes without due regard for the actual words and intended meanings of the Prophets.

Modern Christianity is a religion of great variety, from so-called liberal to arch-conservative, yet all forms of Christianity contain traditions that not only are not found in the teachings of Jesus but rather, are opposite to him and in the way of Human Rights.

In other words, these self-proclaimed élitists really can't give a shit for society as a whole or even the religion they profess to be adherents of and are best left locked up in their exclusive 'serene' complexes with the entrance gates locked.

A sign of the times?

At least that keeps them away from decent folk.


6:00 am |
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
  Don't Be Ridiculous

I'm sure we all have days when the theatre of the absurd takes over and all you can do is shrug and mutter something clichéd such as the Visit Indonesia 2008 catchy slogan: "The sound of invitation is rising, waiting for you to come... It's time for you to visit Indonesia"

Unfortunately, it isn't the right time this week. On Monday, Jakarta's international airport was virtually inaccessible from Jakarta thanks to floods. It wasn't a recurrence of the February floods, which were the the result of the fifth year of a cycle which regularly produces particularly heavy rainfall, but due to 'seasonal high tides combined with broken embankments'.

Oh, and an 18½ year cycle that will see tidal levels rising through to 2009. The cycle is not connected to climate change but is controlled by the moon, according to the Flood Hazard Mapping-Jakarta Floods Project. They have predicted that the next high tides will happen on December 24th this year and on June 4th next year.

Because they only had 18½ years to predict Monday's flood, I am predicting that more settlements will be inundated on those two days.

The toll road to the airport was underwater, thus preventing access, but that's not a major problem. The corporate secretary of the toll road operator, Okke Marlina, pointed out that the company has eight pumps at kilometre 27, "the worst point for flooding", and they "still have many pumps in storage", which is seemingly the best place for them. No point in getting them wet, is there?

As for repairing the broken embankment, City Hall says they can only do it next year because they can only "use emergency funds to supply food and medicine for disaster victims but not for physical development."

What only Indonesia's Friends of The Earth (WALHI) has said, but is bloody obvious, is that coastal erosion, largely due to the planned removal of the mangrove forests, coupled with the reclamation of the coastal flood plain for the building of industrial complexes, golf courses and upmarket seafront 'resorts', is largely responsible.

The current myopia among supposedly responsible bureaucrats and politicians, all with glib excuses, is not new. Jakarta has been sinking for years thanks to the constant depletion of groundwater and the building of unnecessary malls on water catchment areas.

It's time for Jakartans to say "Enough is enough" and to call for enlightened leadership, perhaps by electing as Governor someone who has spent 30 years getting to understand how City Hall works, someone like Fuzzy Bodoh with the experience and qualifications .......


You may be interested to know something about this logo.

* The figure of Visit Indonesian Year 2008 branding took the concept of Garuda Pancasila as the Indonesian way of life, but it was performed by perfectly modern approach.
* The five norms draw by 5 different colored lines and symbolized the Indonesian the Unity Diversity.
* This logo brand formulated into dynamic figure and colors as the implementation of Indonesian Dynamic which is developing.
* The types of letters of logo brand is driven from the Indonesian elements which perfectly by modern approach.

BTW. They started planning this wonderful scheme to attract more tourists as long ago as last September. You can do a lot in a couple of months.


10:00 am |
Sunday, November 25, 2007
  Philately Won't Get You Far - Now
"... I owe my life to my hobbies, especially stamp collecting." - F.D. Roosevelt

Poor old Franklin Delano was confined to a wheelchair for the latter part of his life; there wasn't any TV back then and as for computer games ..., well, it's fairly obvious that he needed a sedentary occupation to while away his spare time away from his day job as the President of the United States.

Yalta Stamp Collectors Conference 1945
Winnie, F.D. and Joe.

He may well have learned that Yalta was in the Crimea because his pal, Josef Stalin, collected the stamps of his country and had swapped some for an 1851 3c portrait of George Washington. Strangely, this looks remarkably like the famous Penny Red first issued in the UK in 1841.
As a schoolboy, I had a Penny Red and loads of other stamps from various countries. Where my stamp albums are now, heaven knows 'cos I certainly don't. If I still had them, I could probably sell them for loads of cash, although I was never interested in their perceived financial value. I was more interested in what they represented and how they had reached me from far distant exotic places.

Largely thanks to that schoolboy's hobby, I know where various countries are and can generally pinpoint them on a world map in seconds. For example, I know that Monaco is on the south coast of France because in 1956 the wedding of the year was between Prince Rainier of Monaco and Grace Kelly. She gave up a life of film stardom for a more secure celebrity's existence. She gave up Bing for bling, and loads of stamps were issued.

I had pen friends who sent letters and post cards. I steamed off the stamps and swapped them with school mates and we compared values in a communal Stanley Gibbons Catalogue, a massive tome which needed two of us to carry. What is more, it was re-issued every couple of years to reflect changing valuations and new issues. We mostly kept our collections in albums using gummed 'hinges' on the backs of our prizes to keep them in place on a page. Not only did we learn geography, but layouts and other design features were also absorbed.

But things are different now.

The Stanley Gibbons Catalogue is now online and now, as with Fuckr, Mugshots, Fraudster and similar 'social networking' sites, philatelists can send their collections into virtual reality whilst storing their bits of paper in a bank vault. Stamps are now much more of a financial investment and you can bid for them on ebay. They are now appraised rather than appreciated.

So is that the point of stamps now? Whereas they were once a pass to new worlds, and note that immigration officials 'stamp' our passports, they are now to be hidden from sticky fingers and prying eyes. It's akin to not bothering to save Sumatran rainforests because you can see a tiger or two in a zoo.

Admittedly, Indonesians are more pro-active with their post office, but that's most likely because of the appalling state of telecommunications here. For folk without access to the internet, and some fifty percent of the population here don't even have access to a telephone, snail mail is the lifeline to the outside world. This means that there is still a need to stick stamps on envelopes containing business proposals, love letters, thank you notes, as well as on non e-postcards. (The envelopes to ignore are those which are franked as they are probably bills and other impersonal missives.)

Once sent or published, writing can't be retrieved so these all need a fairly major mental effort to produce and the process can be a lengthy one. Apart from business letters, which are usually typed anyway, there is generally a sense of anticipation when the postman comes to call. "Ah," we say, "I recognise the handwriting. It's from ..... whoever."

Once upon a time, a mere ten years ago, we expats in Indonesia would pass our letters around, excerpts would be read aloud and shared. Sometimes they got sniffed because, yes, aromas and scents would occasionally linger. Stamps would be steamed off for the few philatelists we knew.

It's probable that letter writing is a dying art.

The advent of email - not to mention texting, instant messaging and social networking - has undoubtedly played much the biggest role in the fate of the letter, but the novelist AS Byatt traces its long-term decline a little further back.

"I think the television has killed letter-writing just as much as email has," she says. "In the Victorian era, letter-writing was what people did in their spare time, and then they read the letters to each other. In a way, it was the news, as much as anything. People would get these very long letters, and they'd know the writer expected the person to whom they had written to show it to the rest of the family. I don't think that happens any more, except those round-robin things people write at Christmas. They're the last ghost of all that."

Those round robin things? Could she be talking about blogs?

Visitors to Taman Mini Indah Indonesia (TMII), on the toll road south from Jakarta, can gaze at Indonesian stamps at the Stamp Museum whilst serious collectors of new stamp issues are served by the Post Office which has a dedicated website. You may be interested to know that the next first day cover, December 6th, will celebrate the SEA Games XXIV, followed on the 13th by the 50th Anniversary of the Juanda Declaration.

Thus we used to get educated.

PS. UK readers may well not feel very happy with the Royal Mail having recently discovered that a pair of CDs were lost in the post. The problem is that the CDs were not encrypted or password protected and they contained the bank details of about half of the population, some 25 million.


12:30 pm |
Saturday, November 24, 2007
  Access All Areas, except ....

Our Kid and I went to a non-existent art exhibition in Taman Ismail Mazurki, Cikini, today. It was supposedly an exhibition of what could be termed 'street art'; not so much sprayed on graffitti by the 'street drunk punx' as the work of Bill Posters which can be seen all over Jakarta, on walls, the interiors and exteriors of public transport, on every pillar, post and pylon and the sides of household rubbish boxes..

The decaying remains of the recent gubernatorial election are everywhere, as are black and white SPANDUK posters. I've always found it odd that supporting pillars of flyovers should be covered with adverts for folk who put up adverts on supporting pillars of flyovers. I'm also bemused by the cloth advert which was suspended from the electricity pole outside Jakartass Towers. It advertised goats for sale which can be slaughtered at the Idul Adha festival of Scarifice to be held on December 20th. It had a picture in the centre, of a cow.

I thought it could be a pleasant educational day out. Most folk are totally oblivious of their surroundings, which is probably why Jakarta is so bloody in terms of places of beauty and access to whatever there is. I hoped that the exhibition would be an eyeopener so that in his daily trawl through Jakarta's traffic, Our Kid could look at it more critically.

We can get to TIM by train, if we're prepared to wait. And we got to our local station just in time to see our preferred means of transport departing. So we waited for half an hour.

Two stops later we got off and strolled slowly, but carefully, along the bits of sidewalk that were not blocked by warungs (kiosks), mechanics repairing vans, ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers sleeping, parked cars, motorcycles confiscated by the Cikini police. For those stretches we walked towards the onrushing traffic.

We then strolled around TIM looking for a non-existent exhibition. We didn't go in the Planetarium because it was full of kids aged from 5 to 10. Our Kid is 11. We didn't watch a movie either because the only customers seemed to be young couples, possibly senior high school age, learning how to snog. Yeuk.

So we checked out the DVDs in the secondhand book shop which didn't seem to be as antiquarian as I remembered. The DVDs cost Rp.7,000 each, which is more expensive than my usual suppliers. What is the world coming to, I wondered, when even pirated discs are not inflation-proof. I bought 7 and, thankfully, only one was fimed from the back row of the stalls, possibly by a snogging couple.

We trudged back to the train station and Our Kid took several photos of the impasses that confronted us. This one seemed particularly 'up yours'.

The lass in the ticket office sorted out my change. "I hope you don't mind small money," she said as she counted out Rp.48,000. I'd given her a Rp.50,000 note especially to get the small change needed for all those folk who tell me "Tidak ada uang kecil, Mister" in the hopes that I'd tell them they can keep the change. Whilst all this was going on we heard the rumble of our train overhead.
So we waited an hour for another to come along.

The lad wearing this T-shirt was also waiting for the train as he wanted to board it and wheel trays of fried tahu (tofu) through the carriages. I told him that his message was important, a pesan penting. I'm not sure he understood but it certainly made a nice counterbalance to last Saturday.

And this lad, who can't have been much older than six, attracted a few glances, but just a few.

He disappeared when the train came along, but which we didn't board. We couldn't because there wasn't even any room on the roof. The next train was the usual standing room only and was OK until we arrived down the line and tried to disembark. Like an icebreaker, I ploughed my way through the onboarding hordes. Let us off first, you arseholes, I shouted in my best vernacular, there's Our Kid trying to get off.

At the ticket barrier there were seven, count'em, guys in uniform collecting our ticket scraps, vaguely interested in the commotion a couple of metres away. You're lazy good-for-nothings, I told them, in my sweetest bahasa, and if there's a serious injury among the passengers you'll lose your jobs.

Our Kid told me that he'd landed a punch or two getting off. He seemed quite proud.


6:30 pm |
Friday, November 23, 2007
  Man Hits Car

At approximately bloody early this morning, I was being a good pedestrian and using a pedestrian crossing to, erm, cross a busy traffic-jammed street in Jakarta, and it doesn't really matter where. Let's just call it Jl. Anywhere.

Anyway, the traffic was stopped by a satpam (security guard) to allow a mum and her kindergarden-aged kinder to cross and I was sneaking across in their wake when, lo and behold, a Kijang people carrier deigned to rush past us. It passed so close that I was able to give a loud slap on the rear window.

The slap was hard enough to make my hand feel sore some twelve hours later.

I wish I'd slapped the woman driver instead.


8:00 pm |
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
  Quote of the Day

Indonesia has long been one of the world's greatest infringers of intellectual property rights, pirating software, branded goods, CDs, DVDs and songs.

And just to prove the point, if you are after any fakes, go no further than the lobby of the Directorate General of Intellectual Property Rights, where there is actually a kiosk selling knock-off watches, bags, belts, socks, watches and CDs!
- Julia Suryakusuma in Jakarta Post


9:30 am |
Monday, November 19, 2007
  I Never Know just what will get a debate going, so I am interested that my last post, about one of the biggest, if not the biggest, culture shocks of my life, is being widely read.

I lived in Franco's Spain for a couple of years in the early seventies, and I lived here in Indonesia for Suharto's last ten years. Outside those periods of necessary conformity, I stretched boundaries with an open mind. I marched with the Anti-Nazi League and Rocked Against Racism.

Yet I was still highly agitated upon seeing that display of racist ranting at the Indonesian Book Fair. Tedious though others say it might be, allowing Indonesian folk to be bored by Mein Kampf is not an option I approve of. As I say in the comments, the war against fascism, which started in Franco's Spain three years before Hitler invaded Poland, is deeply ingrained in my personal history, if only because I was conceived the night that the war in European was won.

My father often said that he fought the war for the likes of me, and for that I'm grateful. However, I've been a lifelong pacifist, but like many others in my position, I do wonder how I would have reacted if I had been born as part of my father's generation. Volunteered for a non-combatant's position? ( My extreme myopia may well have disbarred me from actual combat duty, but who knows?) The war against fascism was, I feel, a righteous war ~ and still is.

In 2004, Laurence W. Britt published his The Fourteen Identifying Characteristics of Fascism in the Free Inquiry magazine.

We are two-and-a-half generations removed from the horrors of Nazi Germany, although constant reminders jog the consciousness. German and Italian fascism form the historical models that define this twisted political worldview. Although they no longer exist, this worldview and the characteristics of these models have been imitated by protofascist regimes at various times in the twentieth century. Both the original German and Italian models and the later protofascist regimes show remarkably similar characteristics.

For the purpose of this perspective, I (considered) the following regimes: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’s Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia.

As this is a copyrighted article (shame) I am just appending the list. For the clarifications, either fill them in yourselves, or go to the link.

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.
2. Disdain for the importance of human rights.
3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.
4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism.
5. Rampant sexism.
6. A controlled mass media.
7. Obsession with national security.
8. Religion and ruling elite tied together.
9. Power of corporations protected.
10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated.
11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts.
12. Obsession with crime and punishment.
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption.
14. Fraudulent elections.


9:00 pm |
Saturday, November 17, 2007
  A Saturday Almost-rant

Our Kid and I checked out the Indonesian Book Fair in the Convention Centre in central Jakarta today. I won't bore you with details of how far the bus stop is from the entrance but how if you enter through the workers entrance (labelled Karyawan) and keep going around the left of the building you end up walking through the area where they 'groom' the potted plants. Nice.

Inside it's the cacophony that one might expect and the first stall we came across had hordes of f;lk scrapping for book bargains in English. Naturally we joined in and got loads of novels, mainly Japanese, plus a few Pokeman comics for thank-you-very-much prices.

What got my goat, however, was a prominent display of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, a book that remains a key component of white supremacists' propaganda.

I remonstrated with the keeper of the stand, but backed off before I made a total prat of myself. I managed comments - naturally in my fluent Indonesian ~ about Hitler being responsible for the genocide of umpteen millions of undesirables such as Jews, Romanies, non-Aryans such as the vast majority of Indonesians (but unlike Jakartass) and physically or mentally handicapped folk, and pointed out that my parents' generation had fought a World War against Hitler for blatant racist crap like this, so what the fuck is it doing being sold openly in a country like Indonesia which preaches Unity In Diversity .......... etc. etc.

And he told me that Indonesians had a right to know.

I responded that this was akin to Islamic fundamentalism which allows stupid ignorant fools to set off bombs in Bali and elsewhere and besides, this philosophy was/is much more dangerous than that espoused in Karl Marx's Das Kapital which had been banned etc. etc. ....

Our Kid and I then went off to get drunk ~ him on Diet Coke, me on Bintang ~ because, what the fuck ....???


8:30 pm |
Monday, November 12, 2007
  Antri dong ...

Any chance of the Jakarta Public Transport Authority having an Art Department?
Or a Transport Museum?
Or a Public Service?
As in London?
Footnote the following day.

President SBY, conscious that the eyes of the world will be on him as he hosts the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Bali next month, has asked local regions to provide special lanes so folk can cycle to work. He was seeing off a group of cyclists aiming to pedal their way to Bali over the next couple of weeks so they can be applauded in the opening ceremony on December 3rd.

Regarding bike lanes, SBY said, "By providing access to cyclists, we are not only saving the planet by reducing pollution, but also giving people fresher air to breathe." This may sound like a bit of tautology, but it makes a lot more sense than what Fuzzy Bodoh had to say on the same matter.

Our recently elected governor was presumably referring to the membership of the Bike2Work group, brave souls one and all, when he said, "There are some 3,000 cyclists in the city right now. we have to wait until there are one million because providing special bus lanes will take part of the road."

There are certainly more than 3,000 cyclists, as well as assorted bread sellers etc., pedalling their way around. If there were bike lanes, more people would be encouraged to cycle and less people would drive. If there were special lock ups for cyclists at busway terminals and, say, shopping malls served by the busway, then more folk would use the busway, meaning that there would be fewer cars and less need to widen roads.

There's another gubernatorial election in four years or so.

Can Jakartans afford to wait that long?


9:00 pm |
Sunday, November 11, 2007
  .... and all that jazz

In a couple of weeks, from November 23rd to 25th, Jakarta hosts the 9th JakJazz Festival.

Unfortunately, me and mine won't be going due to the lack of a few million rupiah. This might yet change as the Department of Manpower has ruled that with regards to our case* claiming unfair (and strictly illegal) dismissal, along with my fellow colleague in distress and co-plaintiff, we remain on the payroll of our erstwhile employers. That's thirteen month's salary (and rising) plus 'entitlements' that we're owed. Judging by a recent precedent set because other employers of expats prevaricated and appealed the legally binding decisions, we expect the compensation to be substantially greater.

From that point of view, my current deprivations are certainly bearable; I look upon unpaid salary as a savings account. This may well please you as I really want to get out of Jakarta and to be able to move up to West Sumatra where the banner at the top of this website will be the view from my studio. Farewell Jakartass, hello .....?

There is certainly a long way from the sights and sounds of the metropolis, but I doubt that I'll miss them. The sights of Indonesia that I enjoy are generally green - the unfolding spreads of rice fields, of terraced as well as yet to be sculptured hills and places where a harmony of the senses is achieved, in love not war with the land. This may be hard to perceive, yet within seeming chaos patterns emerge, rhythms and varying cycles interweave.

And that is why I am a fan of the sounds of jazz and the music categorised as 'world music', which, in the words of Brian Eno, is constantly integrating and hybridising, where differences are celebrated and dignified.

Although this year's JakJazz features showbiz stars such as Kool and His Gang and Spirogyra, there are some interesting collaborations mooted which I would be interested in checking out. For example, Luciano with Zarro is a cross-fertilisation between a Brazilian and an Indonesian, though who is what I'm not sure. The Joona Toivanen Trio from Finland will hopefully have some of the sensitivity about landscape so evident in the music of other Scandinavian musicians.

The best music is that which touches the soul and reflects our roots. The festival is dominated by Indonesian musos, some of great renown such as Bubi Chen, Indra Lesmana, Ermy Kullit and Kiboud Maulana. I hope that the many other local musicians stretch their musical boundaries and explore their possibilities.

One I'd certainly like to catch is Dewa Budjana who, in the words of my good friend Leonardo Pavkovic, is an amazing guitarist who has just made a great record featuring Dave Carpenter and Peter Erskine (drummer with Weather Report); the music was played and performed brillantly, with great compositions, but the sound is a bit too 'American'. Too polite. I wish he could do more unpolite music, but he has a great career with Gigi and makes money.

Leonardo is proprietor of MoonJune Records in New York and recently released Patahan by Simak Dialog. I've got the CD and wish I'd known about their gig in Erasmus Huis where it was recorded, but apart from the very good interplay, I don't really detect a local flavour to their music. The band, like me, are great fans of Pat Metheny and I know the keyboard player, Riza Arshad, was at the Pat Metheny gig in Jakarta in October 1995. So was I, but my listening has moved on since then.

The Joona Toivanen Trio from Finland is one group I've yet to hear, but they apparently have some of the sensitivity about landscape so evident in the music of other Scandinavian jazz musicians.

Their music is considered to be lyrical and elegant but equally strongly individual and daring and has its genesis in the Finnish nature and draws from the its rich epic and folk tradition. This is one of the most promising and talented young jazz ensembles coming out of Finland during the past 10 years. They have a skilful grip on the art of improvisation and know how to deliver a great mix of original compositions with superb musicianship, and do so at times with a melancholic Nordic vibe and often an air of gladness and joy is laced through their material.

It looks as if this is one treat I'll miss - another ho hum moment.

*See posts It Doesn't Cost Much 1-5 - read them in order, from the bottom upwards.


3:00 pm |
Thursday, November 08, 2007
  Number 1 book about Jakarta

(And edition 1 is at no.2)

If anyone can let me know a. where this book is on sale in Jakarta and b. if you fancy writing a review, please email me.

For b. the publishers would like a mini-resume giving some idea of where you think you could get a review published, links to any reviews you've already had published and your postal address.

Culture Shock - Jakarta

Whilst we're on the subject of books, it's great to see a growth in fiction writing and reading in bahasa Indonesia.

One of my readers, Mina, writes Book Quickies, a blog of reviews. I was intrigued to see that she lists another 22 Book Bloggers, as well as links to online book stores in the country.

I've always contended that any and all reading is good for you in the sense that it broadens one's horizons and increases literacy and critical thinking.

And what I've read today is a new Greenpeace report, Cruel Oil, about the rape and rapid conversion of Riau's peatlands into palm oil plantations. I've posted a news article on Green Indonesia.


3:00 pm |
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
  Clean, Transparent and Professional

That's the Jakarta Education Department, or so they say.

By "clean", I presume we are meant to assume that they are not corrupt and that the office isn't managed by one of the two ethnic groups prevalent in City Hall.

"Transparent" could have a similar connotation. However, if it refers to the English on their website, then transparency refers to your ability to comprehend what follows.

The fact that their English is singularly crap and that they didn't even bother to venture down to Jalan Jaksa on a Friday night to ask one of the relaxing English teachers there to proofread the appalling mess that is below, smacks of a total lack of professionalism.

This column just to news Top in around education.- In Morning With Margani M Mustar

Keeping abreast of education world of that's everyday in correct readinging by head On Duty DIKMENTI Provinsi DKI Jakarta, either through kliping of through Newspaper of and also news of through media Internet . Do not seldom Bang Margani ( Chummy Greeting ) often stir to collect info education world , and surely library do not be overcome . Such as those which in tracing by Editor dikmentidki.go.id

" I am as steward socialize in the world of education in jakarta , have to be more comprehend education khususnnya method growth which must be applied to the fore , for the shake of school peripheral progress supporter ( Kepsek & Teacher ) and student.What is student psychology growth in my era moderen.To be have to update in Keeping news growth ". Said " .

Good News
Local government of DKI finally will give prosperity subsidy to assistive teacher of Rp 500.000 per month. Others, prosperity subsidy learn ber-NIP 15 and the erratic officer is which from the beginning Rp 500.000 (c.US$52) per month will go up to become Rp 750.000 per month.

NB. This website hasn't been updated for quite a while, which reinforces my disdain for the so-called professionalism of City Hall employees - and elected officials.

I am indebted to Isman for alerting me to the site. Isman is/was one of the first bloggers in Indonesia and calls himself The Fool In Bandung. He may be in Bandung, but he sure ain't a fool.



7:00 pm |
Sunday, November 04, 2007
  Bridge Blogging?

There's an expat blogger in town who's very keen on so-called bridge bloggers, which he defines as writing your blog in English or some language other than Indonesian so that the world outside has another window with which to peer into your country.

Some of us have been doing that for five years or more, but he's not referring to those of us who've not yet got an Indonesian passport.

This Malaysian expat agrees that there are some good blogs among the expats but most of them are droll and comprise of grouses about the country they live in, deprecating remarks about local women and mutual masturbation among unattractive expat men.

It's a shame that Ong's English isn't of a sufficiently high level to know that being droll is a very positive attribute even whilst he makes gross generalisations about the group he is part of.

He has also made assumptions about Indonesians blogging from abroad. Ho hum.

Jennie Bev's riposte to him makes fine reading and could almost be a manifesto for all those of us who seek to live in harmony in a multi-cultural society. Our grouses are very much related to helping this society emerge from the blinkered subservience of the recent authoritarian past whilst attempting to foster communality rather than consumerism and self-aggrandisement..

There are indeed a number of fine blogs written in good English by Indonesians, both here and abroad. I've linked to a number of these, including Jennie's, for quite a while in my links list.

One of the earliest is Isman's along with that of his wife Angela, who writes Teen-Lit and keeps a mother's blog, Mote It Be. Back in 2004 Jakartass just pipped Isman's Fool Found A Blogspot to become Indonesia's Best Blog. That just 188 votes were cast for my efforts over a voting period of a couple of weeks shows how far the Indonesian blogosphere has developed since then.

And today I've found a newcomer, they've only been blogging since August, which deserves loud hurrahs and a very warm welcome. Monochromatic Rainbows, (aka Orwellian Charade), is jointly maintained by cynix, Karina, *vitriolic, and ~whi who "are witnesses to the absurd and the voice of the less heard. We watched rainbows develop over our monochromatic skies."

They appear to be well-educated female Chinese-Indonesian students, whether in senior high school or at university I can't tell. However, these lasses have keen enquiring minds and with their level of language I look forward to reading more. Their list of tags gives some idea of their range so far: Communism, Extended Essay, Ignorance, IPS, Family, Love, Busway, Corruption, future of Indonesia, Jakarta, Traffic, Pink, Appreciation, Art, Movie, Review, Chinese, Indonesians, Justice, Racism, Success, Superiority Complex, Idealism, Monks, Myanmar, Racism, Respect, Shame, Catholics, Christianity, Church, Hypocrisy, future of Indonesia, Motorcycle, Sensation, Wind.

Why are we so boggled up in our misconstrued conceptions? It was not until I choose to do my Extended Essay on Indonesian History that I was finally awaken of the numerous indoctrinations taught to me in my elementary IPS lessons.

An indoctrination still in motion, still unawakened in the mind of my peers, my cousins, my fellow countrymen.

Right on sisters.

Erm, let me rephrase that.

Write on, sisters.


9:30 pm |
Saturday, November 03, 2007
  Green Gleanings - November 07

A year ago, the Reveller and I set up GreenIndonesia.net in the hopes that this would serve as a portal for environmental news, good and bad and, if we could attract contributors, as multifarious as possible. As with so many good ideas, this one didn't take off and I ended up as (almost) the only writer.

That we set up a Wordpress template for the site is a major problem as much of the posting has to be done whilst online and I am reliant on an intermittent dial-up connection. You are reading this on a Blogger site, and all formatting including previewing, apart from uploading pictures, can be done whilst offline, so, until I get affordable broadband in Jakartass Towers, this is what you get.

I do write a lot about the environment and having recently posted a series of articles about the hybrid seed industry's attempts to control the food industry here in Indonesia, I realised that I do need a specific site for such focussed writings. Therefore, this past week I have set up another blog spot and called it, with no attempt at originality, Green Indonesia. My hope is that it will serve as a resource on particular environmental issues, particularly as each article posted, albeit opinionated, has a host of links to further reading material.

I make no great claims for the layout and colours and I may yet transfer it all to the Wordpress site, but it will have do for the moment.

And I hope the following gleanings will do for a while as well.

1. Grain Blog reports that the push to plant hybrid rice seeds is more hype than hope.

Both the government and the seed industry are well aware of the susceptibility of hybrid rice to diseases and pests. In the decrees authorising the 31 hybrid rice varieties approved for commercialisation in the country, all are listed as having, to various degrees, susceptibility to brown planthopper, tungro, and bacterial leaf blight.

2. Report (.pdf) on a field monitoring trip by Riza Tjahjadi of Biotani Indonesia Foundation giving details of item 1 in greater depth.

3. Today Greenpeace launched the Forest Defenders Camp Satellite Station (FDCSS) at Monas Park in Jakarta.

The event will disseminate information compiled by Greenpeace's Forest Defenders Camp in Riau, stationed near a peatland forest cleared for palm oil plantations, and support the organization's campaign to include deforestation talks in the next phase of the Kyoto agreement.

The FDCSS will showcase the beauty and destruction of the pristine rain forests of Indonesia, highlighting their impacts on biodiversity and climate in an exhibit of photos, cultural performances, lectures and short films. With support from the Jakarta administration, the event will feature local artists and musicians from Nov. 3 to 11.

I hope visitors can find a gate open so they can enter the park. Hint: it's near Gambir train station and nowhere near the Busway stop.

4. This coming Thursday (8th November), KEHATI, the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation founded by the eminent Prof. Dr. Emil Salim, is holding a seminar on Business and Biodiversity, also in Jakarta.

Many plants and microbes in the forests, on high lands and in the bed of the oceans of Indonesia are hiding magical cure for deadly deceases such as cancer, HIV/Aids, cardiovascular, not to mention plants for food security, cosmetics, natural coloring and preservation etc. This is not a wishful thinking. It's already a fact to be commercially and sustainably utilized. Come and listen to the facts disclosed by senior researchers and practitioners.

If you are in pharmaceutical, food or beauty business, or you want to try a new core, then biodiversity is your fortune in waiting.

As much as I am not a believer in the accumulation of personal wealth, because the oceans and forests surely belong to us all and thereby represent our communal wealth, this seminar could be another way forward. Hopefully it's a wedge keeping a door open into a new way of thinking for humanity, albeit an ancient way.


6:30 pm |
Thursday, November 01, 2007
  Tiger, tiger burning dim

There's much ado about Indonesia hosting the next, the thirteenth, United Nations Climate Change Conference on the island of Bali from December 3rd -14th.

A week ago, SBY hosted a two day informal meeting in Bogor of ministers and senior officials from about 40 countries aimed at building a foundation for the conference.

He called for developed countries to continue to take the lead in significantly reducing carbon emissions.

"Developed countries are also called upon to provide resources, environmentally-sound technologies and the necessary financial support for developing countries, many of which have scant resources for coping with and adapting to the impact of climate change."

But developing nations should also try to reduce their national greenhouse gas emissions and step up their efforts to do more, he said.

"They would be well advised to formulate and carry out innovative and forward-looking national strategies by way of mitigation and adaptation."

Obviously, Indonesia must do more to control deforestation and the conversion of peat lands.

There is no question that deforestation in Indonesia is having a serious impact at international as well as at national and local levels. Destructive logging, out-of-control fires, forest clearance for plantations, mining, fossil fuel extraction, transmigration sites, aquaculture, and road-building have long been linked with negative social and economic impacts for local indigenous and forest-dependent communities, and enormous financial losses for communities and the state.

A recent study (in Indonesian) has now highlighted the global picture, which shows Indonesia both as a major contributor to climate change, as well as highly vulnerable to its impacts. Forest destruction, peatland degradation and forest fires are mostly to blame for Indonesia's ranking as third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the USA and China.

Not only must Indonesia do more; the government now has opportunity to demonstrate a clear commitment and leadership; politicians and law enforcement agencies must cease mouthing platitudes and act, and not just in Bali (where for the duration of the conference SBY will have his seat of government).

A report has been issued this week by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) which states that some unprotected areas of Sumatran forests are safe havens for a variety of threatened species, including tigers, elephants, sun bears, tapirs, golden cats and clouded leopards.

Sumatran Tiger *
The Indonesian Government is currently allocating the degraded, logged and partially settled forest areas to oil palm, timber plantations and other concessions, all of which have damaging impacts on the environment. If this strategy is not changed, it will result in loss of habitat that is vital to the future of the Sumatran tiger and many other species.

Degraded land is land that has already been stripped of its largest trees, making it unsuitable for animals that live in forest canopies, but it is still useful for ground-based animals as it can serve as useful corridors between different populations of a species.

So, it is clear that not only primary but also secondary forest areas are key to Indonesia's biodiversity. They must be brought under legal conservation control. A commitment to do so at the Bali Conference from the Indonesian government, together with the necessary regulatory framework, would go some way to demonstrating that the Conference has a validity beyond the beaches.

* Note from Richard Ness: "The picture was taken by a camera trap. All you do is set a digital camera along the trail and it takes a picture of any animal or human that walks by. We had requested the Tiger Foundation to assist in base line studies on wild life in an area in Sumatra. This photo was taken by a camera trap set by Dr. Neil Franklin from the Tiger Foundation (NB. No longer active). We had a separate group for Orangutans. We did find is a very unique area where the Aceh biodiversity overlapped with the North/Central Sumatra biodiversity. Ended up working with US AID and conservation international to try and have it protected. This work is still on going. What I also learned is that tigers are very interesting. I am not sure the cutting of primary forest for logging or plantations is a real issue for them. They may do just as well in secondary growth."

(A year ago, Richard Ness was on trial accused of allowing his gold mining company,
Newmont Minahasa Raya, to pollute Bulat Bay in Sulawesi. He was acquitted in May this year.)

Essential reading: 'Avoided Deforestation' and Indonesia



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