Sunday, August 31, 2008
  My Desert Island Discs 2

In the 50s, as a lad growing up in the inner suburbs of south-east London in a typical suburban semi-detached house, I had a fairly typical suburban life. Having worn glasses from the age of seven, I was a good, but shy, boy. As I was supposedly blind without my owl like National Health Service specs, I generally avoided playground scrapes. I did join the wolf cubs, and have a chipped tooth as a reminder of those strange days of dybbing and dobbing and learning the difference between reef and granny knots. (Write to me if you really want to know what I'm on about, or what I was on.)

If it wasn't for my father's somewhat, for then, eclectic tastes, my musical memories of those times, a time of radio censorship, would remain in the realms of trite lyrics of songs such as How Much Is That Doggy In The Window? and the following which has haunted me ever since.

Love and marriage, love and marriage,
Go together like a horse and carriage.

One of the favourite records of my schooldays was Stan Freberg's 'John and Marsha', a 1951 novelty number featuring dreamy music and just the words 'John' and 'Marsha'. It was played week after week on Jack Jackson's Sunday night record show until someone twigged that the piece followed the course of coitus from pre to post.

I never knew that one and it was to be another decade before it had a personal resonance. Or relevance come to think of it. But there were a few songs which I can still reproduce around a drunken campfire, about knowing old ladies who swallowed a horse - she's dead, of course, and about needing hands - to stop your arms from fraying. But these were safe songs, for a world made dangerous because of the Bomb. At 11 or 12, I was too young to note the birth of protest songs as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament launched the Aldermaston Marches.

To be honest, I've never been fond of in-yer-face kind of music and rarely thought of lyrics as being of earth shattering, or building, import. A song sung by an angry singer is an angry song, and songs which offered 'Ashes to ashes and dust to dust/ If the bomb doesn't get you then the fallout must ...' were off my aural and spiritual radar.

I was also too young to Rock 'n' Roll. Bill Haley and Eddie Cochrane, along with the teddy boys with their quiffed and pomaded hairdos, came and passed me by, although in the case of Eddie Cochran he also passed on. But they left their mark with others. It was the beginning of a new-ish phenomenon - rebellious teenagers.

One obvious manifestation was the renaming by Larry Parnes of several youths who could hold a guitar and whose head could support a quiff. Thus Tommy Steele ( Hicks), Dickie Pride (Richard Knellar), Duffy Power (Ray Howard), Johnny Gentle (John Askew) - backed by The Silver Beatles in 1960, Terry Dene (Terence Williams), Vince Eager (Roy Taylor), Billy Fury (Ronald William Wycherley), Georgie Fame (Clive Powell) and Reg Smith who jilted my Sunday School teacher after his name was changed to Marty Wilde, and went on to sire Kim (who had more hits than her dad).

Following the austerity of the post war years, there was, we were told, a new found wealth. We'd never had it so good apparently, although there was the Suez crisis, a near terminal meltdown at Calder Hall atomic power plant in Cumbria. And in 1958, Elvis joined the army.

Not that any of this really bothered me because I started, and started to hate, my grammar school. Having fought the war for the likes of me, few of my school masters had much sympathy for a delicate lad like me, someone who couldn't do a forward roll, let alone vault a horse. To this day, I've no idea why anyone should want to.

I wanted to avoid trouble, but even then I seemed to have mastered the quick quip and the bolshie attitude which has served me since, through both good times and bad.

My musical choice for this post is from the one consistent performer through all my music buying life, albeit not from my school days - Clive Powell. I'd choose his 1966 album, Sound Venture with the Harry South Big Band, partly because I did see them in concert, at the Brighton Dome where I'd seen Errol Garner, and also because of the sheer musicianship of the then cream of British jazz musicians. I also saw him in concert with the truly atomic Count Basie Orchestra but, to the best of my knowledge, no recording exists of that magic night.

Me, my future co-author Del and Georgie share a ciggie after his gig at JakJazz 1994




7:00 am |
Saturday, August 30, 2008
  What, another plane crash? Yawn, yawn.

I'm a regular reader of the Jakarta Post - mainly because there isn't a choice. There may be one in late September if the James Riady (Lippo Group) backed Jakarta Globe gets it all together but having received an email from the deputy editor (Hi Joe) addressed "Hey scumbag", I'm not sure I want to bother with it.

Whatever, it does seem strange to me that the only websites in Indonesia carrying news of a Sriwijaya 737 skidding off the end of a runway in Jambi on Wednesday afternoon should be Tempo Interactive which posted their article one hour after Son No.1 left a comment to my story about the blasé attitude of retired Air Chief Marshal 'Cheeky' Chappy Hakim, a former chairman of the National Team for the Evaluation of Transportation Safety and Security. (If you link to his blinkered article there is an early comment about the crash. But nothing in the news section.)

Thankfully (?) the Aviation Herald got in earlier.

A Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-200, registration PK-CJG performing flight SJ-62 from Jakarta to Jambi Sultan Taha (Indonesia) with 125 passengers and 6 crew on board, overran the 2000 meter long asphalt runway 31 at Jambi, ploughed through a house and came to a stop in a vegetables field. 6 passengers, 2 flight attendants and a family of three resting in the house were injured, the family father critically (reportedly lost one arm), and rushed to a local hospital.

The two flight attendants were trampled by panicking passengers shoving their way out of the plane. Oh, and Sriwijaya think the farmer was at fault.

Sriwijaya Air spokesman Charles An said the weather at the time was not good, but he also complained that farmers were working close to the runway.

"Three kilometres from the runway should be a clear area," he said.

Presumably, the three kilometres would be designated as a crash zone.

But whither the Post? Using their search engine does uncover one story about a Sriwijaya plane overshooting the runway at Bangka Belitung, but this was on the 18th April earlier this year.

There is also a forum on air safety following a Post editorial about legislative moves to establish an independent air safety regulatory body, moves which were quickly shot down as too many politicians and businessfolk are creaming off tidy profits at passengers' expense.

Low cost airlines can only operate because lives are cheap. (But don't make jokes about them costing an arm or a leg.)
I do wonder if 'Cheeky' Chappy has been wounded where it hurts - in his pride. As co-leader of Indonesia's delegation to the EU attempting to overturn the current EU ban on Indonesian aircraft entering EU airspace, he's proved to be an abject failure, not that demonstrably enhanced air safety procedures have been put in place or are enforced.

His whinging merely exposes the flaws in this country's governance.



4:30 pm |
Friday, August 29, 2008
  Internet: Last piece of fibre-optic jigsaw

Wow, I thought, when I saw this headline, but my excitement was premature because the headline continues into a second (and third!) line with ... as cable links east Africa to grid.

Well, lucky East Africa I say.

They are the arteries of the modern world. Stretching for tens of thousands of miles over the ocean beds, the vast web of intercontinental submarine cables have brought the possibility of cheap high-speed internet and clear long-distance telephone calls to all major parts of the globe. Except one.

East Africa remains the only large, inhabited coastline cut off from the global fibre-optic network. Reliant entirely on expensive satellite connections, people on the world's poorest continent pay some of the highest rates for logging on or phoning.

The only large, inhabited coastline cut off from the global fibre-optic network and "some of the highest rates for logging on or phoning"?? Doesn't Indonesia count?

I live in Indonesia's mega city. I regularly use the internet; in fact I depend on it for income sources, yet I am "cut off from the global fibre-optic network". And why? Because fibre-optic network providers, such as First Media, which is currently teasing me with brochures and promises to "empower" me with a FREE cable modem and installation - if I go for the super-strength office network downloads, won't actually connect me to their network a mere five minute stroll away. Why? Because although I live in a very mixed community, it isn't an upmarket komplek.

"The speed that knowledge currently moves in Africa is 5mph - walking pace."

Strange to think that, as I noted a couple of days ago, Indonesia, né the Dutch East Indies, was at the forefront of international communications 150 years ago, yet a report published six months or so ago says this:

Commercial Internet services commenced in Indonesia in 1995. Coming into 2008, Indonesia had an estimated 25 million Internet users. This, however, represented only around 10% of the population. And broadband Internet services were still very much in their infancy. Problems with inferior telecommunications infrastructure were likely to continue to impede Internet growth. However, the country is considered to have enormous potential as an online market.

Don't you love that word 'potential'? It covers such a multitude of sins.

Given the parlous state of the internet provision in Indonesia, one may be forgiven for assuming that communication here is little better than in Africa. However, that doesn't take into account the fact that loads of folk here demonstrate that they're ambidextrous when it comes to texting to two communicants simultaneously - whilst.offering their fatuous thoughts.

And perhaps one should ignore the constant interruptions in any discourse with folk who have more money than sense yet lack common courtesy by neglecting to switch their multi-purpose handheld devices to the offline mode when engaged in a face-to-face discussion.

The following stats from InternetWorld and the *Indonesia Internet Service Provider Assoc. (APJII) may demonstrate remarkable growth percentage-wise, but as long as ISPs are dependent on access to the Telkom and Indosat satellite hubs, then as user numbers increase, each person online will get a proportionately smaller bandwidth.

Year.........Users........ Population......Penetration.......GDP US$
2007...20,000,000.......224,481,720.......... 8.9%.............1,280

Judging from my stats, the majority of Indonesia's users access the internet through their office computer. What is beginning to seriously piss me off is that I'm now beginning to be grateful if I can get on line using my dial up connection. That I may only get 1.5kbs is immaterial; actually getting on line is a success in itself.

Neighbouring Singapore is on the fibre-optic highway and can manage broadband for all, which is free at the airport, so as to why Indonesia can't offer a similar service ......

dit.dit.dit. dah.dah.dah. dit.dit.dit.



5:00 am |
Thursday, August 28, 2008

As in nutty as a ....

I'm still a bit knackered from the Badui weekend, of which more later, and have missed the time for some serious commentary.

That's why I think I'll let Oigal tell it like it is with Indonesia's cheeky Chappy complaining about the EU's colonialism when it comes to not letting Indonesia's planes fly into their airspace.

After all, their planes fly through ours. I bet the pilots feel scared, very scared, given that 'human error' seems to be a major cause, numerically speaking, of crashes in this country.

Check out this site for full reports.

Way back in the late 80's, a Garuda flight went down near Medan. The gossip was that air traffic control confused their left and right.



5:00 am |
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
  August 27th 1883

It's August 27th today and we can celebrate, if that's the word, a cataclysmic event that took place 125 years ago here in what was then the Dutch East Indies.

If you don't know what the occasion is/was then look a moment at this parody of a very famous painting from 1893 - which, for copyright reasons, I supposedly can't reproduce - Edvard Munch's The Scream. Perusal of the Norwegian artist's journals indicate that traumatic events in his past inspired many of his paintings.

Reports collected by the Royal Society in London show that unusually red twilight glows appeared in Norway from late November 1883 through the middle of February 1884. The spectacle was widely seen, as Christiania's daily newspaper reported on November 30, 1883.

Coupled with topographic analysis, this is probable proof that the spectacular twilight seen in one of today's most recognizable paintings was inspired by the eruption of Krakatoa ten years previously.

Coincidentally, and thanks to frequent commentator Miko, I am currently reading Simon Winchester's Krakatoa - The Day The Earth Exploded, pub. Viking 2003, an immensely gripping account and a highly recommended read.

Before we get to the eruption we are treated to a fascinating array of relevant subjects that should appeal to any reader of eclectic interests: the evolution of the Dutch East India Company and its spice trade, Darwinism, the Wallace Line, continental drift, convection currents inside the Earth's mantle, plate tectonics, paleomagnetism, subduction zones, the development of underwater telegraph cables, evidence for Krakatoan eruptions in earlier centuries, and the observed paroxysms of the doomed island in the months, days, and hours before the final cataclysm. While many of the subjects may sound dry, the author's treatment of them isn't.

It is fascinating to learn that in 1856, the electric telegraph was introduced to the Dutch East Indies, connecting the colonial offices in Batavia with the palace in Buitenzorg (now Bogor).

-------From then on the pace of technological innovation in Java quickened. The island was connected internationally in 1859, acquiring an undersea line to Singapore (though this failed after a few days) and then, in 1870, links to both the Malay States and Australia. These proved to be totally stable: and so by the time of the Krakatoa eruption (on August 27th, 1888), the places where the explosion was seen and felt and heard and suffered were all connected, by the dots and dashes of Mr. Morse's code, to the world beyond.
--------The eruption of Krakatoa was, indeed, the first true catastrophe in the world after the establishment of a worldwidenet work of telegraph cables - a network that allowed news of disasters to be flashed around the world in double quick time. The implications of this rapid and near ubiquitous spread of information was profound.

Similarly, the internet here has spread news of the seemingly abundant disasters, both natural and manmade - earthquakes, floods, terrorist acts and the Aceh tsunami which, although immensely tragic, was surely not as traumatic in its (literally) earth-shattering significance as the tsunami which followed the disappearance of Krakatoa. (I posted these stories within minutes of their occurrence having got the news via telephone or television.)

JMW Turner - The Fighting Téméraire, 1838

This painting probably reflects Turner's observation of another event in the recorded history of this archipelago, the eruption of the volcano Tambora in 1815. This triggered the notorious “year without a summer”, which caused widespread failure of harvests across Europe, resulting in famine and economic collapse.

Dare I say that planet Earth could do with another massive eruption in order to reverse some of the effects of global warming?

Too late. I've said it.


5:00 am |
Sunday, August 24, 2008
  My Desert Island Discs 1

Music has always been part of my life.

My father (MF) had a pianoforté, which sadly I wasn't allowed to touch. Come to think of it, I've never been allowed to play a 78, an album, cassette or CD on any of his stereograms or then new-fangled sound reproducing contraptions.

Whatever, he plays the piano - yes, at 89 he still does - with a strong left hand providing the foundation for the right hand melodies of popular songs. There is an echo of the pre-WWII stride pianists from Chicago in his playing. During the war, he was mainly stationed in Britain, serving in the Education Corps of the Royal Artillery, originally based at the Woolwich Arsenal. I presume he learnt the boogie-woogie style from the American troops who arrived in the UK.

Choosing a track from my piano jazz collection is difficult. I could plump for the somewhat obese Fats Waller who could be heard on Housewive's Choice on morning radio in the 50s singing about what his very good friend the milkman said, or, in Viper's Drag, about his consumption of marijuana, a connotation I'm fairly certain MF has never thought of.

Other jazz pianists from later times, such as Oscar Peterson, are perennial favourites. Back in my student days I had a vinyl album called At The Opera House with the Modern Jazz Quartet on one side and the Oscar Peterson Trio on the other. They were recordings of live concerts and although I haven't heard the Trio side for perhaps 30 years, I can still recall, with a shiver down my backbone, one magical moment.

Just as one cannot ever know eternal happiness, because we need the balance of sadness or stress to highlight the good times, so music needs pauses. On one track, with the audience totally engaged, there is a pause and from somewhere in the back of the auditorium you can clearly hear a woman having a moment of ecstacy, an orgasm. Rare are such raptures, and if any of you have that album, please make and send me a copy. (Or, if you have broadband, please download it from here.)

Right from the outset of compiling my imaginary playlist I'm going to cheat because if I have to choose just one pianist, then it's Erroll Garner, and his Concert By The Sea recorded in 1955. It's atrocious recording quality and you can barely make out the drummer and bass player, but it's of little matter. It's a performance of such pleasure and brilliance that it seems much shorter than its actual 45 minutes.

He couldn't read music and he'd been told by noted teachers to not learn notation because they feared he would lose his spontaneity, the hallmark of his genius.

Back in '66, a year or two after I'd left the parental nest, I went to see Erroll play at the Brighton Dome, a magnificent auditorium with a balcony which was unfortunately, but luckily for me, barely filled. I was able to move to a front row seat from where I could gaze down at Erroll as he grunted through his totally improvised set. I have kept an image of his smile beamed up at me ever since.

He died too young, and my vinyl and cassette copies of this album are corrupted beyond listenability but I have bought the CD here in Jakarta.

So all is well.




7:00 am |
Saturday, August 23, 2008
  More Not On The Telly

It seems from the Guardian that attendees at English Premiership matches are mostly middle-aged and middle class.

Well, I'm not because according to various stats, I'm more or less - gulp - old, and classless. Anyway I can't get to games and if I could I doubt that I could afford a season ticket. But no matter because a. I'm in Indonesia and b. Charlton isn't in the Premiership. However, even if they were I wouldn't be able to watch my team on the telly.

ESPN/Star gives us previews, prognostications and postmortems on the Premiership, but no matches, and it's incredibly tiresome listening to the waffle about the supposedly four clubs who will win everything.

For the two Addicks in Indonesia - yes, there is definitely one more, we have Football Crazy whose presenters are a fat Malaysian DJ, a former Australian professional footballer, Singaporean Jamie Yeo with absolutely come hither charms, and Brit Andy Penders who I don't like but who, fortunately for us, supports Southampton who are in the Championship alongside Charlton. I say 'fortunately' because it does mean that we get to see a goal or two from Charlton each week.

Assuming we score.

I don't know what programmes Col in Thailand and other Addicks in south-east Asia get, although as ESPN/Star broadcast from Singapore I assume that Singaporeans get the lot. What I do know is that in Indonesia not only do we not get the Olympics* but the few subscribers to the Malaysian satellite channel, Astro - who I castigated last year - have now been deprived of their monopolistic right to broadcast Premiership matches live, presumably through quasi-legal government intervention. (I have yet to see this story in the mass media.)

Obviously, what I hope for, and presumably Col and other 'local' Addicks too, is for a TV channel, sorry - any TV channel - to secure the broadcasting rights to the Championship, England's second tier. Why should football fans be deprived of the opportunity to watch some quality football action?

In a footnote last week, I reported that there is next to no coverage of the Premiership in China either. The Premier League sold its broadcasting rights to a pay-TV station with only 30,000 subscribers, from where they hope to "build the brand".

Charlton has the captain of the Chinese national team, Zheng Zhi, in the squad. It's possible that they can't afford his salary, but if China has virtually no Premiership matches on TV, then what better incentive is there for the so-called Championship to market its broadcasting rights?

This has been a party political polemic on behalf of Indonesian and Chinese football fans and my fellow Addicks everywhere.
*The state-owned TVRI crowed that they'd bought the rights to the Olympics, which meant that Indonesians have since wondered why they haven'tbeen able to watch any action. That's because TVRI only bought seven hours-worth. The only other access to the world's greatest (computer generated) spectacle has been though South African TV, assuming you've got a super-duper satellite dish, or via a new pay-TV service, Aora TV, set up by a former Minister of Trade and the President Director of Astra, Indonesia's largest conglomerate, Rini M. Soemarno with her brother Ongki.
(Info from What's New Jakarta newsletter which I have subscribed to - twice - but have yet to receive. I was forwarded the info.)


5:00 am |
Friday, August 22, 2008

Antony Casual writes: Imagine a place where there are no roads, no electricity, no traffic jams, no computers. A world where people work the land and are essentially self sufficient. There is no money because there is nothing to buy. They feed themselves, clothe themselves and heal themselves. An agrarian utopia, it sounds like a wet dream for Khieu Samphan, the apparent intellect of Pol Pot's genocidal régime in Cambodia. However, it's a reality in the mountains and valleys of a small area of West Java where the Badui live much as they have done for ever and ever amen.

This is where I'll be this weekend with a group of friends, expats with Indonesian wives and children. I haven't yet told 'Er Indoors that the wives and children face an uphill hike of some seven or so kilometres into the inner sanctum whilst we foreigners are left behind, relaxing, in the outer village.

It should be an interesting weekend, although I do have some reservations about being a cultural tourist. More importantly, I hope that our bunch of crazy mixed up kids return with an enhanced respect for those who continue to live in harmony with their surroundings, hopefully only mildly subverted by we outsiders.

As I walked around I was struck by two things. One was the absence of man made noise. What a treat that was to walk in the jungle and hear the noises only of the beasts who live there and the occasional clack-clack as women worked on hand operated mills, knocking up handicrafts for the tourist trade.

(I posted about the Badui nearly three years ago when I spotted two villagers walking beside a main road in Jakarta.)



7:00 am |
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
  Eat To Live?
.... Or live to eat?

I'm not a foodie except in so far as there are several foods I won't eat. Dog or pangolins for a start. And definitely not for starters.

I suspect that I could be tempted if all chefs had a similar philosophy to Valentine Warner's.

'What makes me love cooking,' he says, 'is discovering the things to be found around us, bringing something in from outside and getting people excited about that. The idea of seasonal food used to be essential to British people because we didn't travel much, so people knew what grew around them in their region and learnt to use it because if you didn't, you went without.

"Now we don't need to inherit that knowledge from our parents and there's this supermarket-mentality that sells the idea of quickness - Eat this instead, it will make your life easier. We've become completely divorced from nature and a little scared of it.'

I'd still be a vegetarian though.

Make Your Own Coke

Cola, that is.

I can't stand the stuff. The only time I can recall actually buying any was when living and travelling through Thailand just over twenty years ago. A large bottle of coke made the bottle of Sang Thip or Maekong whiskey go down that much easier.

My question is, would I like it if it wasn't made by that giant, you-can-get-it-everywhere monolith?

Probably not.

This has been post no.1,250. I think I'll drink to that.


5:00 am |
Monday, August 18, 2008
  Monday Miscellany

It's a public holiday today because yesterday, which was the real, regular August 17th Independence Day holiday was a Sunday. Which is, for most of us, a holiday.

I generally assume that my local readers have more time on their hands for browsing on holidays, but I could be wrong. Perhaps folk log on to this site through their work computers. If so, rest assured that today's post - or is it yesterday's because you've logged on tomorrow? - is SFW.

1. The paomnnehel pweor of the hmuan mnid

Although I have occasionally been accused of confusing my readers, most will recognise the truth of the saying 'Familiarity need not lead to contempt'.

Jakartass has a recognition factor, and to demonstrate this may I suggest that you copy my URL - http://jakartass.blogspot.com - into the space provided on this page and see if I still make sense.

2. Environmental Graffiti is "for environmentalists who don't take themselves too seriously".

I doubt that you can you resist stories such as:
* Beijing’s Amazing Urban Forest
* 30 Objects Swallowed by Lava and Pyroclastic Ash
* Cuba In Animals For Oil Deal
* Pre War Underwater Aquarium Plans, 1936
* 11 Green Technologies That Vanished Like a Thief in The Night
* What do Lunar Cycles and Gruesome Beheadings Have in Common?
* Tiny Lego Terrorists Hijack Power Plant
* Sensational Smoke Art

3. Big Foot Found
Every country seems to have a semi-mythical beast, such as the Himalayan Yeti (aka Abominable Snowman), Scotland's Loch Ness has its monster, and the remote forests of northwest America and British Columbia, Canada has Big Foot, also known as Sasquatch, an allegedly ape-like creature.

Now it has supposedly been found, and here is a picture of it.

(For a time the Orang Rimba (Jungle) forest dwellers of Sumatra were considered similarly mysterious. However, the greedy loggers of this country have given them the glare of a denuded landscape and a memory of a lifestyle which was totally in tune with their surroundings.)

4. The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is "an international literary parody contest".

The competition honors the memory (if not the reputation) of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). The goal of the contest is childishly simple: entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels.

This year's winners have just been announced and these are my favourites today. Tomorrow?

As a cold winter sun was just rising above the lonely French village of Vicres-le-Buffeur, the forlorn figure of a man dressed in rich Arabian silks could be seen crouching in the center of the market square, crying softly and cradling in his arms the limp and lifeless body of what appeared to be a large hamster.
by Arndt Pawelczik, Hennef, Germany

It was common knowledge around town that Bill drank like a fish, the kind of fish that consumes large quantities of cheap scotch on a daily basis.
by Brent Sheppard, Morganton, NC


8:00 am |
Sunday, August 17, 2008

The British Broadcasting Corporation has a well-loved programme which is older than me! It's Desert Island Discs which has been broadcast weekly on Radio 4 since 1942 with but three presenter-hosts in that time.

The premise is simplicity itself: guests are invited to imagine themselves castaways on a desert island, and to choose eight pieces of music to take with them; discussion of their choices permits a review of their life. Aside from music, they are permitted one book, excluding the Bible or other religious work and the complete works of Shakespeare, which are already present on the island to force more original choices. They also choose one luxury which must be inanimate and of no survival value, though large supplies of champagne seem to be allowed.

It's an intriguing proposition, and some 3,000 plus interesting folk have had their extra half hour of fame. One example is the late lamented DJ John Peel, and the transcript of his session can be read here, a session of great variety reflecting his influence on the British youth of his, and my, generation.

What, of course, makes this interesting is that there will be few Brits who haven't idly made up their own list. And not only Brits. Apparently Britain's arch-enemy Adolph Hitler made one; he probably didn't consider that some of his favourite musical artists were Jewish and/or Russian.

Five discs that Hitler wanted to take with him.

1. Piano sonatas, Opus 78 and 90, Beethoven
2. Wagner’s overture to The Flying Dutchman by the Bayreuth Orchestra, conducted by Heinz Tietjen
3. Russian arias, including the death in Boris Godunov, by Mussorgsky, sung by the Russian bass Fyodor Shalyapin
4. Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, soloist Bronislaw Huberman
5. Mozart Piano Sonata No 8 in A minor with Artur Schnabel

It could also be instructive to have a look at the playlists of Obama and McCain, then decide who you'd prefer as a president of the God 'Ol U.S.of A.

I have spent a few nights on 'desert islands' and lived off the land (and, of course, sea), which meant that there were plentiful fish and coconuts to be caught. I enjoy my own company, but can't say that I've been a castaway because there were fellow travellers with me, and if I were alone, I'm not sure that I'd want music with me to stir memories of an unattainable past.

But if fate and fame call, then needs must.

This has been the first in a Sunday series which will continue until I've given my all and chosen just a few of my 200 gigabytes of sounds.

You have been warned.




8:00 am |
Thursday, August 14, 2008
  I Am Badminton.

I knew very little about Indonesia before I came, but did know that, as in England, there was a healthy tradition of badminton champions. Indeed, I was quite a mean player myself so, aprt from the4 contract, plane ticket and healthy salary on offer, I had a genuine motivation in coming.

Imagine my disappointment to discover that in Jakarta there were, and still are, very few facilities for playing. Vacant lots quickly got built upon and streets got taken up by traffic, so all I've been able to do to maintain my interest in the sport has been to watch the occasional coverage of championships on TV.

And now that isn't even possible, even though there will be at least one medal won at the Beijing Olympics, with Maria Kristin Yulianti through to the women's singles semi-final, the first Indonesian woman to make it thus far for 12 years.

I was intrigued, therefore, to come across one of those blogthings asking What Olympic Sport Are You?

And guess what it told me?
It's 'quite' accurate.
Stop press

A little birdie tells me that there will be NO live Premiership football matches on Indonesian TV this season. Astro, the Malaysian satellite broadcaster, who walked off with the rights last season, with just 100,000 subscribers have apparently lost out on the grounds of monopolistic practices. And, naturally, none of the other companies want to replace their diet of cinetrons and celebrities gossiping about other celebrities.

Does anyone really care?

Football hits great wall

I've just discovered
that there is next to no coverage of the Premiership in China either.The Premier League sold its broadcasting rights to a pay-TV station with only 30,000 subscribers, from where they hope to "build the brand".

Maybe we should be thankful and hope that the rights to view the Championship, home of Charlton Athletic and good-ish football, can be bought cheapish. Fewer prima donnas and more honest endeavour please.


4:30 pm |
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
  It's All For Show.

I recently lambasted local TV companies for insulting the Indonesian public by not covering the Beijing Olympics.

What I failed to mention was that formerly (or is it still?) state-owned - but now with advertising - TVRI agreed to cover the fortnight's action. Whoopee-do I thought at the time, but figured that I wouldn't or couldn't be bothered to watch anyway as I'm getting a bit bored with sports and more sports.

And anyway, our hero from the last Olympics, Taufik Hidayat, wasn't going to win again. And he didn't. What is more, apparently local viewers are still being cheated. This is a bit of what Agnes Johan has to say in today's Post.

All of Sunday afternoon, when the Olympic Games were in full swing, TVRI was broadcasting a boxing match from several years ago.

From what I've seen so far, half the time is used for advertisements, a quarter of the time is spent listening to the Beijing-based reporter and no sport can be seen. Often the summary of the events of the day show the ultimate winners on the podium, not the last, say 50 metres, winning dive or lift of whatever sports is practiced.

But it's not just Indonesian audiences who are being cheated. It's the whole world.

By all accounts, the opening ceremony was full of oohs and ahhs, with aerial footprints marching pyrotechnically across the sky, except ..... all but the last were computer-generated animations.

Then cute little nine year old Lin Miaoke sang Ode to the Motherland except ... she didn't. Unfortunately for seven year old Yang Peiyi who did sing Ode to the Motherland, she wasn't cute enough to perform it in public because she has crooked teeth which "were considered potentially damaging to China's international image."

Chen Qigang, the event's general music designer, explained to a Beijing radio station, "This is in the national interest. It is the image of our national music, national culture. Especially the entrance of our national flag; this is an extremely important, extremely serious matter."

So, cute little Lin Miaoke (on the right) actually lip-synched Ode to the Motherland.

In spite of a missing tooth?

All Crap in Jakartass today.

An inflatable dog turd.

This giant inflatable was deposited in the Art Playground at the Paul Klee Centre in Switzerland.

20 hectares of playground for the garden show: the farmland to the rear of the three steel hills and the entire tract of greenery from the Wyssloch Valley down to Lake Egelsee are sprouting weird and wonderful objects to form an animated kind of front garden.

American artist Paul McCarthy is subverting the otherwise harmonious landscape sculpture of the Zentrum Paul Klee with his installation Complex Shit – a giant pile of dog faeces.

Except it isn't. On July 31st a sudden gust of wind blew the exhibit, the size of a house, from its moorings and carried it 200 metres, bringing down a power line and breaking a window, before landing in the grounds of a children's home.

Now, that's a lot of flatulence.

More on crappy art can be perused on Rob Baiton's blog. In the comments to this post, he offers to have a public dump and call it performance art. He'll probably be in a shitty mood at the time.

Over at Green Stump, friend Oigal was recently exercised (exorcised?) to hear that his home country's government, in Australia, planned to spend Oz$40 million on investigating cow farts. You see, according to some estimates, livestock methane emissions translate to roughly 7 percent of the world's greenhouse gas production.

I've written to O suggesting that he ruddy well ought to write to his PM Rudd and tell him that the answer's simple: mix some garlic in the food mix.

What it will do to the taste of the meat, milk or cheese is as yet unknown and it's fairly certain that we humans, unless we all go vegan, will continue farting around.




5:00 pm |
Sunday, August 10, 2008
  A Letter in the Post

Disappearance of predators

------Tabanan regency and other areas of Bali are experiencing serious rice crop damage from rats because natural predators have almost disappeared. Farmers have been killing snakes in their rice fields for many years, and poachers routinely steal baby owls from the nest to sell at the illegal wildlife market in Denpasar.
------Trying to manage the pest with poison endangers the few predators that remain. Only by returning the balance with nature and encouraging natural predators in the rice fields will solve the problem.

At the risk of sounding flippant, after all this is a cry for commonsense, aren't cats natural predators of rats?


8:00 am |
  Proxy Music

I'm often asked what I miss most about London and after careful, culturally sensitive thought, I'll answer - music.

I miss not popping down to a local pub and seeing a live band, often before they become famous. In the mid-seventies, there was a pub-rock music genre which grew into punk. I saw Dire Straits, Lene Lovich, Ducks DeLuxe, Brinsley Schwartz (with Nick Lowe), the 101ers - Joe Strummer's band before the Clash.

Yep, those were the days. Kids of today have to put up with copyists of copyists. In fact, feeding nostalgia is big business in Britain now. When groups get too big for small gigs with the price of a pint being the price of entry, or they get too smashed out of theitr skulls on sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll to actually play anywhere, then fans can make do with 'tribute' bands.

Being British, their name is a pun, as well as a clue to the music they perform live. I've found a list on Listopia (The Home Of The List) which has had me giggling fit to bust.

Here are my current top ten favourites:
Edith? Pfff!
Who The...?
Ella Fits Gerald
Marie Unfaithfull
The Pseud-premes
Otis From Reading
Not Was (Not Was)
Tom Waits For No Man
The Isley Brothers-in-law
Hue Of Lewis And The News
The Replacement Replacements
Creedance Clearwater Revival Revival
Everything But Everything But The Girl
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (aren't in this band).

By the way, I know I'm no good at maths.

But while on the subject of lists, I must mention that the esteemed Diamond Geezer has included Jakartass in his list of 202 blogs worthy of mention because his blog is particularly worthy of including in our blogrolls.

It's a real Sunday browse fest for you.


7:00 am |
Friday, August 08, 2008
  Hot On The Heels

The Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club arranges for all kinds of folk to come to a posh nosh in five star surroundings in the hope that selected 'special guests' will spill a few beans which the correspondents can write up for their paymasters.

The next luncheon is, as the emailed invitation below points out, next Wednesday. Unfortunately, I'll be otherwise engaged but maybe a few of you, dear readers, can manage to drag yourselves out of bed and get yourselves along to ask some deep and meaningful, or meaningless - its up to you, lah - questions of the Minister for His Family's Welfare.

My comments box is open for suggested, or even suggestive, ideas and topics.

-----Original Message-----
From: JFCC
Sent: 08 August 2008 15:25
To: office@jfcc.info
Subject: Change of location: Luncheon with Aburizal Bakrie

Dear Friends and Members,

Coordinating Minister for Social Welfare, Aburizal Bakrie, is one of the most powerful figures in the government. He is responsible for ensuring that services across the nation are delivered on time and, with millions living below the poverty line, that's no simple task.

Join the JFCC for a fascinating discussion with Mr. Bakrie as he lays open his expectations for social development in the final year of this administration and beyond.

Day/date : Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Time : 12 - 2 PM
Venue : Portovenere Italian Restaurant, Lower Lobby Level, The Ritz-Carlton, Jl. Lingkar Mega Kuningan
Cost : Rp. 180,000 for members
--------- Rp. 320,000 for non-members

Please confirm your attendance by Tuesday, August 12 to office@jfcc.info.

See you there!


The JFCC Executive Committee
I keep a bank of news cuttings and I somehow overlooked this one from the Jakarta Post entitled Suspected money politics keeps candidates quiet on mudflow.

You see, in the recent East Java gubernatorial election, none of the five pairs of candidates had Sidoarjo in their manifesto, in spite of the commitment by at least one pair to do so.

"The news that the candidates have received funds from Lapindo is no longer a secret, but it is difficult to prove the flow of money from the Bakrie family," Bambang Sulistomo, Movement to Shut Down the Lapindo Mudflow secretary, told The Jakarta Post on Monday, 21st July.

A similar statement was made by a member of a special committee on the mudflow at the East Java legislative council, who declined to be named.

The councilor did not rule out the possibility that some candidates had received campaign donations from Lapindo or the Bakrie family.

Activists fighting for the rights of the mudflow victims said they had also received unconfirmed reports that all the gubernatorial candidates may have received funds from Lapindo.

If you do go to the JFCC lunch, please ask the Abhorrent Bastard for a comment on this.

Please do drop me a line afterwards. I'd love to know his reaction and we'd all like to know what he's going to do for the welfare of the Sidoarjo refugees.


8:08 am |
Thursday, August 07, 2008
  Putting an extra boot in

I knew about the article below co-written by André Vltchek and waited to post it here so that with a little snippet edited out of the original I could highlight a little known added imposition on the 'refugees' of LUSI - LUmpur -Indonesian for mud and SIdoarjo, the location.

Firstly, I would like to draw your attention to two sentences: Nur Kholifah is one of hundreds who received about $1,500, about 20 per cent of what the company promised, she says. She immediately handed over a quarter to a legal team battling for compensation.

The following is the bit edited out from the article.

Grasping Local Officials

Organizing demonstrations against Lapindo and pushing for victim compensation
became big business for several local individuals. They organized in a team called Tim Pengurus/Pendata and they have commonly charged victims 30% of any sum they receive from Lapindo.

Ms. Nur Kholifah further explained, “Some members of the team - themselves from inundated villages - have already built big houses with the money we paid them. The team mainly consists of Pak RT (neighborhood chiefs). We agreed on the cuts in advance - we had to, otherwise we would receive no compensation at all.”

So, if the 20% compensation paid was Rp.13.5 million (c.$1,500), 25% (Rp.3 million) went to lawyers and 30% (Rp.4 million) went to grasping local officials, leaving just Rp.6 million (c.$550) to the victims of Lapindo's incompetence.

Not all 'refugees', out of the more than 13,000 families (as at May 2007) have received even the limited compensation, which even in full would be by no means enough to replace their lost homes and livelihoods, and their children's disrupted schooling,

The mudflow is continuing, the ground is sinking as the mud escapes and, to add insult to injury, PT Lapindo Brantas has just been awarded a blue ranking "for complying with environmental standards set by the government."

On Wednesday last week, the ministry announced the results of its audit on 516 companies for the 2006-2007 period. These companies voluntarily took part in an environmental rating program, popularly known as Proper. The program classified companies into gold, green, blue, blue minus, red, red minus and black categories. They were judged according to achievements in controlling air and water pollution and in fulfilling environmental impact analyses (Amdal). Corporate social responsibility (CSR) program performance was also included.

Corporate social responsibility? To who? Its owners, including the Minister of Social Welfare, Abdurizal Bakrie, Indonesia's richest man?

Yet again, Indonesia lets itself become a laughing stock throughout the world for its brazen self-promotion and its seeming lack of empathy with its citizens..

And for this ibu, it all remains the same, a crying shame.



3:02 pm |
  Indonesia's Ground Zero Expanding

A giant stinking lake of volcanic mud has made 50,000 people homeless and swallowed up villages and factories, write David McNeill and Andre Vltchek

Indonesians call it Pompeii, or their own Ground Zero, a giant stinking lake of volcanic mud that has made 50,000 people homeless and relentlessly swallowed up villages, factories, schools, mosques and major transport arteries since it began bubbling out of the earth two years ago.

The planet's largest mud volcano spews 125,000 cubic metres of methane-rich sludge a day, enough to fill 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Today, the mud covers nearly 1,600 acres: about the size of Dublin's Phoenix Park, and shows no sign of slowing, despite being dammed by hastily erected 6m (20ft) walls.

Every week, hundreds of refugees from the Sidoarjo district of Java, about 18 miles from Indonesia's second-largest city of Surabaya, gather to pray for deliverance from what seems an almost biblical disaster.

Shamans and witches have joined seismologists from across the world in a failed attempt to stem the flow of mud.

"I don't know how we're going to survive," frets Nur Kholifah, a housewife who lost her home in Kedong Bendo, the first inundated village. One of about 2,000 refugees living under sheets of plastic a few kilometres from the disaster area, she recalls May 29th, 2006: the day the eruption began.

"I was preparing a meal and suddenly mud began inundating my house. It was hot and smelly." She blames the volcano for the death of her mother a month ago. "She used to be healthy: I think she died from stress."

At Besuki village, bordering the mud lake local people made homeless by the eruption stop passing cars to beg for money.

Officially declared a natural disaster, seismologists and furious locals blame drilling by an oil and gas exploration company with connections to a billionaire government minister. The company, Lapindo Brantas, was drilling for oil 3,000 metres into the ground less than half a kilometre from crowded villages when the volcano erupted.

A team of experts from the UK's Durham University who investigated the site concluded that the drilling penetrated a water-filled aquifer beneath a sea of mud, sending a pressurised mix of both to the surface.

The team's leader Prof Richard Davies said he was "99 percent certain" that the drilling triggered the eruption. Private compensation claims are crawling through the Indonesian courts, but few of the poor victims can afford the legal fees.

Lapindo Brantas is owned by the family of welfare minister Aburizal Bakrie, listed last year as Indonesia's richest man by Forbes magazine with a total fortune of about $9 billion. The minister and his family's company have grown rich on the back of rising global commodity and energy prices, particularly for coal. Critics say the minister's political connections have saved him from stronger government demands for compensation.

PT Bumi Resources, Indonesia's largest mining company, owned by the Bakrie family, has seen its share price increase 400 per cent over the past year as global demand for coal has surged, according to GlobeAsia magazine.

But Yuniwati Teryana, a spokesman for Lapindo, claims the mud flow is a "natural" phenomenon. "Technical and legal facts have not shown that Lapindo is guilty," he said.

Lapindo has refused compensation but offered what it calls "aid" to the victims, including food, rent and down-payments on houses. Many refugees have refused and demand new homes.

Nur Kholifah is one of hundreds who received about $1,500, about 20 per cent of what the company promised, she says. She immediately handed over a quarter to a legal team battling for compensation.

In Besuki, families live in makeshift housing and green military tents. Some have given up hope for compensation. Those who haven't shun publicity for fear of retribution. "I'm afraid to say anything," said a woman who gave only her family name, Amru. She says rain and floods have made the situation worse. "We had several floods. My baby was born after the second flood. We mark out time by floods."

On the outskirts of Reno Kenongo village, now completely uninhabitable, children play in the mud, which they say smells like rotten eggs. Some locals are taking their former homes apart, brick by brick, and selling the bricks at about $14 per 1,000.

"What can we do?" asks a villager called Mrs Lika "We have to survive somehow."

Ms Ngateni laments: "There are no jobs and we are still waiting in vain for some aid or assistance. And now we are turned into beggars. We stop the cars and we beg: that's how we have ended up." She is refusing to leave the area, despite the miserable conditions. "If I leave it could be used as a reason not to pay me any compensation."

The only motorway passing through Surabaya disappears beneath the mud, causing epic traffic jams. The main railroad line also had to be rerouted.

At night, moonlight illuminates the eerie landscape around the area: a dark heavy liquid choking the skeletons of houses and the dead trunks of trees.

Soldiers and government experts dispatched by Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono have failed to staunch the flow of mud. Engineers have tried to plug the volcano with concrete and giant rocks, then to cart the mud away in trucks before being overwhelmed by the sheer volume. Everyone lives in fear that one day the concrete dam holding back the mud will burst, and this entire area will disappear from the face of the earth. "There are no precedents for what we are attempting to do here," one engineer told the German Der Spiegel magazine.

As the battle against the mud and Lapindo continues, the worst fears of those made homeless are coming true: complacency is setting in. "It used to be the only topic people were interested in discussing", explains Dwiki Basuki, a lecturer at the local Surabaya Institute of Technology.

"But eventually people got bored. Nothing happened; almost no compensation was paid to the victims. The mud lake there is growing, but people have got used to it."

In the latest maps for Surabaya, the area has even started to appear as a tourist trail. "Hot Mud Lake" is now listed alongside temples and other local sites of interest. The tourists and the curious are hounded by beggars who didn't exist two years ago.

This article is © 2008 The Irish Times, is online here and has also appeared in the print edition.
Picture from the blog of Mikhail Tsyganov.



3:01 pm |
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
  Greedy Bastards

Just over a year ago I wrote the following:

Pangolin is a Malaysian word for 'rolling up into a ball', which the pangolin, also known as the scaly anteater, does to protect itself from enemies. The Sunda Pangolin is increasingly rarely found in Southeast Asia; in Indonesia, it lives in Java, Sumatra, Borneo and Lesser Sunda Islands/Nusa Tenggara.

However, as the Guardian reported this week they are under a greater threat here, not so much through deforestation as because Chinese foodies consider them to be a delicacy. As a result of demand, the pangolin populations of China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia have been wiped out. With traders moving further and further south, the animal is declining even in its last habitats in Java, Sumatra and the Malaysian peninsula.

Last week 31 pangolins were found aboard a wooden vessel abandoned off the Coast of China. The boat contained some 5,000 endangered animals.

That was last year.

This week, this year you can read the following:

Police raided the warehouse of a suspected illegal wildlife trader in western Indonesia, seizing 14 tons - count 'em - 14 tons of endangered pangolin, their carcasses frozen and ready for export to China - where, for some strange reason pangolins are considered to be a delicacy.

Fourteen suspects were arrested, the monitoring network TRAFFIC said, describing the seizure as the largest-ever of the scaly, lizard-like animals in Indonesia.

"This is trans-border syndicate," the group quoted Didid Widjanardi, a senior national police officer, as saying. "The pangolins were packed and ready for export to China via seaports in Sumatra and Java" islands.

Last week's arrests in the Sumatran city of Palembang were triggered by two seizures earlier this year in Vietnam, involving more than 23 tons of frozen pangolins that were known to have originated from Indonesia.

"The police in Indonesia have done an excellent job and should be applauded," said Chris Shepherd, senior program officer with TRAFFIC. "We hope that these criminals are prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

For some strange reason pangolins are considered to be a delicacy in China. The full extent of the law there is the death penalty.

And in Indonesia .....?


3:30 pm |
Monday, August 04, 2008

An Axis of Logic

A couple of weeks ago, I opined that one's right to vote is also the right to not vote.

I have recently found a beautifully reasoned argument entitled Suppose They Called An Election And No-one Came by Paul Richard Harris, an Axis of Logic editor and columnist, based in Canada. What he has to say is aimed at American readers, but with resonances for all supposed democratic nations. I urge you to read the whole article, but you may first wish to consider the following.

Prior to the rise of democracy a few hundred years ago, hunger was rarely a social problem.

One of the things our rulers have always relied upon is our willingness to be cowed. From time to time, here and there throughout the world, a movement arises that overthrows the order of the day. Unfortunately, in all but a very small number of cases, the movement quickly deteriorates into a carbon copy of what it just replaced.

What is needed is a completely new mindset. One that is based on thinking that the world really belongs to us all, not just a few of us; one that is built on the principle that society needs enough capitalism so as to maintain individual incentive, enough socialism so as to maintain individual humanity.

There is little to distinguish humans from the rest of the animal kingdom, except that they are generally better people than us. We have at our disposal the tools, the wealth, the opportunity to put aside centuries of bickering and warfare; we are more than able to feed all of our species; we are quite capable of allowing for the drive of those who want to succeed in capitalist pursuits and for allowing them to prosper while they help others.

Surely it must be self-evident that a society which cares for its weakest, that prevents unnecessary hunger and illness, that ensures the basic necessities of life are available to all, is a society worth having. Surely it is self-evident that such a society takes away much of the impetus toward anti-social behaviour that has caused so much strife among us. Surely it is self-evident that removing some of the want from people and addressing the needs of the dispossessed, the refugees, the poor, is an act of self-preservation.

Dare you to disagree?


6:00 am |
  ..... and Derisory

AdamAir Flight School

A recent surge in referrals, notably Jeff Ooi and Priyadi, to my most-visited post - about Adam Air - piqued my interest.

I knew the airline was grounded due to safety concerns and dubious financial arrangements. 'Er Indoors told me that the final report on the disappearance of Flight 574 has surfaced on TV news here, but the report was issued in March, over four months ago.

So, I investigated further. To my surprise, and yours no doubt, I discovered that Adam Suherman has apparently opened a flight school. It seems to be run on a shoestring, a wing and a prayer, and the picture indicates that it remains grounded, so be thankful that it won't affect domestic flyers in Indonesia.



5:59 am |
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Alternative meanings
-i. too tilt to one side
ii. (archaic): base form of lust, to wish for.

I only mention the alternative meanings because they best sum up Jakartass. Although I have a blogroll, to the right, which is a list of sorts, it's completely subjective. Links occasionally get added and removed. Not to be on my list is not necessarily a dishonour, although if sites are misogynist or racist, then there's no way that they'll feature.

Sites to check

Viper Blue is by Adrian in Bandung.
He has list of insightful bon mots rarely updated but worth quoting.

Today's favourite:
You know you've been in Indonesia too long when you instinctively rate 'human development' in various cities according to the franchises established there, i.e. from least developed to most developed: CFC, KFC, McD, Starbucks.

Aroeng Binang lists loads of local blogs in English, many of which I hadn't come across before. I particularly like Wisdom of Wildlife for its delightful snippets.

In the morning breeze of tropical rainforest of Southern Sumatra, a colugo (cynocephalus variegatus) glided and landed at a branch of tree. This ancient mammal of Southeast Asia reminded me of the ancient age when flying ability was evolved. Jump, climb, or glide. With the grayish color, this mammal is well camouflaged when resting on tree bark.

Listing Sites to watch

I don't carry much advertising, and what few ads there are carry my personal endorsement. Like Alicia Keys, who performed in Jakarta last Thursday and is apparently a rather good singer , I won't be a banner holder for products I don't approve of.

So, sorry, but I'm not giving a permanent link to What's New In Jakarta, which I first mentioned on 20th April. The home page has more than a dozen ads and takes ages to load, not that I'm decrying the service on offer. I'm sure it will grow and prove a useful addition to the very limited listings available, not least because it has an associated blog, Ask Miree.

Presumably newly arrived expats ask her questions such as, "Can you tell me where I can do aqua aerobics in Jakarta?" and "Do you have dates for the visit of the Bolshoi Ballet to Jakarta and can you tell me where to purchase tickets?"

Damn, I missed them as they danced away the night of 28th June.

I've also yet to receive a copy of the WNIJ newsletter.

Time Out

Jazz fans living near the Welsh/English border might like to know that John Etheridge, a deceptively vague guitarist (as described by the Guardian), is playing with Arild Andersen and John Marshall at The Guildhall, Brecon, this coming Friday, August 8th.

How come I know more about gigs like that one than forthcoming events here in Jakarta?

As a Londoner, it's inevitable that I make comparisons between the two largest cities I've lived in. Not that I get out much - parental responsibilities and poverty take their toll - but something I really miss from my London days are gigs and exhibitions.

Time Out was the first, and remains the best (only?), listings magazine in London and is coming to Jakarta. I presume it will be an English language edition because all applicants for the positions of graphic designers, editors and reporters, sales and marketing staff etc "must speak fluent English".

Hopefully there will be fewer gigs I hear about after the event. It gets tedious reading reviews and muttering if only.


11:00 am |
Saturday, August 02, 2008
  e-bar-gum* Books

As seemingly happens immediately I've posted a well-crafted article or memoir, I find a news item or remember an aspect of the topic I should have woven in which renders my pearls into pebbles.

A new school year has just got underway here in Indonesia and although school fees are supposedly waived in primary and junior high state schools - the compulsory years - school administrations manage to find ways cream funds from parents. School text books have been a regular earner, particularly as these have changed from year to year so that they could not be passed onto to younger siblings or friends.

With eminent, albeit belated, sense, the Department of Education has decreed that text books should remain current for a minimum of three years, which certainly allows for some continuity of familiarisation with the material for teachers.

Another wheeze
dreamt up by the bureaucrats is for schools or parents to download government approved text books - available online here. Although they are called eBooks, they are not designed to be read on handheld devices or personal computers.

Under the new e-books policy launched in January, the ministry will buy the copyrights to 287 textbooks for elementary to senior high school levels this year and make them available for free download from the Internet. To date, the ministry has bought the copyrights to 49 books.

The ministry's new regulation specifies anyone can print, copy, distribute and sell the books, as long as the price does not exceed the maximum retail price set by the government.

All this would be fine if ....

If more than 25% of the population had internet access.
If every school had computers with broadband.
If the costs of printing and binding the books were cheaper than purchasing the books in local book stores, where they are available. (Ink can cost up to $8,000 per gallon - $1,800 per litre. So quit moaning when filling up your vehicle's fuel tank.)

Fitriani Sunarto, coordinator of the Independent Group for Book Advocacy (KITAB) said that instead of wasting Rp.20 billion (c.$2.25 million) on the e-books policy, the government should reallocate the funds to the School Operational Aid (BOS) to allow students to obtain textbooks for free.

Short Stories Online

The Guardian has published five short stories, which can be copied and pasted into a documents. They are by Chris Ware, William Boyd, Tessa Hadley, Alice Sebold and, my favourite, Julian Barnes .

*My linguistically challenged readers may like an explanation of my title. "Ee, by gum" is a Yorkshire dialect expression (pron. ee,bahgoom) denoting surprise. In English, 'bar' means 'without' and 'gum' is a type of glue. Thus eBooks.


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