Sunday, September 28, 2008
  My Desert Island Discs 6
My last two choices, Eberhard Weber on ECM and Tribute to Soft Machine, have lead me to re-evaluate Pat Metheny. This has meant listening to nigh on twenty albums in the past week.

I was at what I think was his first concert in London in, probably, 1981. With a good friend and neighbour, I'd begun to explore the ECM label. Drummer John Marshall, former Soft Machine member and currently in Soft Machine Legacy, as well as Soft Machine founder member and its first drummer, but now the independent and idiosyncratic singer, Robert Wyatt, have popped up as group members or guests on ECM recordings. John, for example, was in Eberhard Weber's group Colours.

It was inevitable that Pat Metheny would pop up on my musical radar. He had recorded alongside Eberhard Weber in the Gary Burton Quintet in 1974 (Ring - ECM 1051) when he was 20; his first album a month previously was in the Paul Bley Quartet with Jaco Pastorous on bass. Jaco played on Metheny's first album as leader, Bright Size Life (ECM 1073), shortly before he joined Weather Report. A year later, in 1977, Metheny recorded what could be thought of as his first Group album, Watercolors (ECM 1097) with Lyle Mays on keyboards, as he has been ever since, Eberhard Weber on bass and Danny Gottlieb on drums.

That first gig, Pete and I were up in the gods of the Hammersmith Odeon. The group we saw that evening had either Mark Egan or his replacement, Steve Rodby, on bass in place of Weber. Like Mays, Rodby continues to work with Metheny.

I doubt that many in the packed audience had been at his first British gig, at the Bracknell Jazz Festival the year before. We didn't know what to expect and we got sublime, saudade spine tingling melodies played acoustically, hear the fingers slide up the strings, loud synthesised orgasmic group singalongs, and Ornette Coleman free-formish what was that?

Being British, we applauded politely after each piece, some of which we recognised. None of us waved cigarette lighters (which would now be camera-phones) in the air to say "Look at me, I'm at a Pat Metheny gig", something which Americans posing as audiences are prone to do.

When the group finished playing some of the tightest ensemble playing we had ever been privileged to witness, there was a silent pause, then ~ whoosh - as one ~ the entire audience stood and roared for more with that rhythmic footstomping, hand clapping, whistling and yelling which signifies that we were at a gig that would be forever enshrined in our memories.

The group came back and stood at the front of the stage looked around, looked up, their arms around each others' shoulders and you could almost hear their mutual thought ~ "What the f**k have we done here?" ~ as they realised that we had given them the ultimate accolade. I still get goosebumps recalling that magic moment.

They played another half an hour and seemed to surpass themselves. They knew we could take it.

The lovefest was, and has remained a continual euphoric gobsmack. On October 22nd 1995, the Pat Metheny Group played here in Jakarta. The gig was poorly advertised and I estimate that the 2,000 seater hall had only 500 of us; we counted 3 expats, but I do know that the cream of Indonesia's jazz scene were in attendance, folk like Indra Lesmana and members of Simak Dialog. Old softie that I am, tears of joy streamed down my face, maybe because I knew that we'd be very lucky to see him again here.

If you listen (free) to the track Third Wind from the live album The Road To You (rec. 1991), you can get a sense of euphoria too. When the group finishes playing, you can hear the audience pick up the refrain and continue to sing for nigh on a minute. Spine tingling stuff.

I can't find the URL of the web page I copied the following from, but not only does Metheny encapsulate everything I deem important in music, but he has distilled the essentials of his music, something I've probably failed to do above.

"The methods that are used to quantify music - jazz, rock, pop, black, white, American, folk, European, avant-garde, etc. - have all dismally failed as terms that have any value whatsoever for me as a listener or especially as a player. To me, about the best you could say about those tags as useful mechanisms of critical discussion is that they are superfluous. I basically love music and see it - like humanity itself - as one big thing.

I feel very happy that I have the capacity to get goose bumps listening to just about anyone playing just about anything if they are doing it at their very best. When they are illuminating something unique and important and special about that particular musical endeavor at that particular moment in their particular lives as musicians, and they would suffer greatly unless they could make that moment come alive in that particular way - that is when I dig it.

That quality can be found in the most unlikely places. And by the same token, that quality is often lacking in the places where one would most expect it to be. That quality is also elusive and mysterious, and one can rarely predict anything about it."

It is the unexpected in music that I too continue to listen out for. Metheny has played with an "overall creative pantheon of the music industry", whatever that's supposed to mean. Among them: Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, Mike Brecker, Ornette Coleman, Jack Dejohnette, Donald Fagan, Bill Frisell, Charlie Haden, Herbie Hancock, Roy Haynes, Billy Higgins, Dave Holland, Joni Mitchell, Joshua Redman, Sonny Rollins, John Scofield, Nana Vasconcelos, Marc Johnson.

As of 2002, the "Pat Metheny Songbook" contained 167 original scores and, as much as I like the majority of the Pat Metheny catalogue, if I had to choose just the one album, I would have to take The Road To You. It's not my favourite - and I'm not even sure that I have one - but for recapturing the magic of the rare moments when musicians and audiences are as one, I know of nothing better.




7:00 am |
Friday, September 26, 2008
  Catch Up

As Jakarta rapidly empties with the approach of Idul Fitri, the end of the Islamic fasting month, peace descends on those of us staying behind. A rain storm or two and much reduced traffic should give us breathable air and a chance to catch up on lost sleep and those DVDs we intended to watch if we could find the time.

Me? I've got loads of writing to do whilst spending the next 10 days here in Jakartass Towers placing buckets beneath the leaks. Much of the writing is to build up a post-dated frontlog, so to speak, of posts for here, but much of the other is, for the time being, hush-hush.

So, meanwhile, please make do with these snippets.

1. An Indonesian lass in Singapore calls her blog Pleasantly Annoying. It isn't.

2. Christopher Taylor is a Canadian from Vancouver who's lived in New York for almost 10 years. He's an award-winning freelance journalist and he's set up Everything Indonesia. When I emailed him to find out why, he replied, "It's really astounding how little Americans know about Indonesia, so maybe together we can boost their IQ a bit." :)
---How could I not give him a plug, eh?

3. Apart from a few areas in Jakarta and surrounding satellite towns with the closed communities of housing complexes, I'm not sure that Jakarta affords a sense of belonging to a particular area. When I lived in London, local newspapers were of great value as they gave a sense of belonging rather than the alienation felt by many.

London has a number of blogs written by 'local' residents and one of the best I've recently discovered, and from an area I once knew very well, is Stockwell News. This is what a community newspaper should be.

Any chance of Jakarta bloggers doing something for their local patch or is this vast megapolis just one amorphous mass?


8:30 pm |
Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Malaysia's top political blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, has been ordered to spend two years in detention.


Syed Azidi Syed Aziz, better known as Sheih Kickdefella, was arrested by police late today at his home in opposition-held northern Kelantan state under the Sedition Act.


9:00 pm |
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
  A Breathe Of Fresh Air

We took Our Kid camping just over a week ago, or rather, friends of ours with three teenish children and two cars, took the Jakartass threesome.

Weekends in the hills surrounding Jakarta are usually totally macet at weekends, with traffic barely crawling over the pass. Come the fasting month and it's a different matter. Apart from a road block halfway up caused by traffic police looking for traffic infringements and, possibly, Idul Fitri presents, it was smooth travelling all the way.

At the Cibodas camp site entrance we booked ourselves in, hired a couple of porters, who for an extra fee helped set up the tents, did a bit of shopping, primarily for beers, and watched over us during the night.

With a choice of 12 different spots in the camp site we managed to choose one away from other folk with their portable TVs and the few warung/cafés and had a largish area to ourselves. I taught our children how to build a good campfire, a task made simpler by the surrounding trees. At about 1,200 metres, the surrounding forests are coniferous rather than tropical, so there was plentiful kindling from fallen pine cones and twigs.

Food had mostly been pre-prepared, with hot water from a thermos, so my only 'complaint' is that I wish there were portable spring mattresses to prevent the endless awakenings. That night I felt much like the princess with her pea.

Before bedtime, with little coercion we had a team game of hide and seek - without torches or lanterns, parents versus children. Luckily the rainy season had yet to arrive and, although overcast, with a full moon occasionally poking through the cloud cover there was enough light to be caught, and enough shadows to blend into.

The Sunday was spent checking the visitor centre and the three kilometre hike up to some impressive waterfalls in the Gede Pangrango National Park.

The visitor centre was opened last year by the Minister of Forests, Malam Sambat Kaban, currently assisting the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in their inquiries into abuses in the issuance of logging permits in Riau, Sumatra. We were informed that no permits, logging or otherwise, are required to go up to the waterfalls, although they are for the more strenuous, and risky, climbs to the peaks of Mounts Gede and Pagrango - something I first did 19 years ago.

A peruse of the exhibits showed a model of the park which, according to a set of published accounts cost Rp.300 million to produce - a nice round figure for a contour map made out of plywood and painted green. There were no brochures or maps to give us meaningful information, and the official website listed doesn't exist.

However, I have since discovered the "Unofficial Website of Gede Pangrango National Park" which has a Quiz to Test Your Knowledge. (What else, eh?)

What do you get when visit this site, hope will be useful addition knowledge's for you. Well better try to see that, bad points it will not regret, 'cause you try it your self.

Better information can be found here.

Since the 19th century, the Gede-Pangrango area has been a living laboratory for researchers. The trail on the south-eastern slopes was found by Sir Thomas Raffles in 1811, although the earliest recorded climb of Mount Gede was by C.G.C. Reinwardt in 1819.

Among many points of interest in the park, Bodogol Conservation Education Center offers wide variety of interests. Hanging twenty-five meters above ground, a canopied walkway is one of the park’s best attraction although extra precaution should be taken at several points in which the walkway’s condition has deteriorated.

Our climb up to the waterfalls proved that we were fitter than a busload of grannies from Tangerang. Our kids too were fleet of foot, probably because they were engrossed in discussing and quizzing themselves on the relative qualities of anime characters, whatever they are.

My fellow dad and I heard a couple of birds - is that a cuckoo or a wood pigeon? - thus demonstrating the importance of the bird watchers area.

How to Get There: From Jakarta, go to Bogor and further up to Cibodas in approximately 2.5 hours drive (100 km) by using a car.

One enjoyable excursion we all had, minus the wives who preferred to gossip in the camp kitchen, was to the mini-waterfall pictured above. Not too strenuous, we were able to gorge ourselves on a fruit we were told are known as arbey. On this fruit list arbey translates as strawberry. However, strawberries grow on plants at earth level, whereas the fruits we ate were on trees at head height.

They look somewhat like strawberries, albeit a brighter red, but apart from the acidity of those not fully-ripened, their taste was bland without the sweetness and juice of England's summer treat. I wonder if they are related to mulberries which, in Indonesian, are arbel. If you know, please comment below.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, the Welsh are extremely proud because they've just gained a mountain. To be classified as such the mound / hillock / pile / whatever has to be over 2,000ft (609 metres) high. Until this week those responsible for measuring such things had got it wrong by 75 centimetres. Not far, but a giant step for Welsh mountaineers.

And we were pleased with the steps we took too.


7:00 am |
Sunday, September 21, 2008
  Desert Islands Discs 5

Certain record labels encapsulate an era which leaves an imprint in one's psyche. In the late 60’s there was Island, started by Chris Blackwell who later brought us Bob Marley, as well as very British groups who had long hair such as Traffic and Fairport Convention.

In the late 60's and early 70’s we also had CBS, who wanted to Fill (Y)Our Heads With Rock. These were the 'Sounds of the Seventies' ~ Santana, Taj Mahal, It's A Beautiful Day, Miles Davis, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a veritable cornucopia of delights. They also brought us Soft Machine, of whom I wrote last time.

CBS has since turned monolithic and corporate, and is owned by Sony.

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

I first came across ECM one Sunday night in the early 80's. It was past my bedtime but I regularly listened it on my stacking hi-fi, with headphones on. BBC Radio 2's Jazz Hour, or whatever it was called, was presented (probably) by Humphrey Littleton, a distinguished Brit with a distinctive Old Etonian voice and a jazz background as a trumpeter. Most tracks played were introduced, or commented on after, but that night I was transfixed by an ethereal choral sound, yet it wasn't. It was almost singalong, yet it wasn't. And Humph played an entire side of the album without speaking, it's single track lasting long enough for me to be totally sucked in, to become totally captivated.

It was Fluid Rustle by Eberhard Weber, a German bass player and composer who had been an inspiration for (even) Jaco Pastorius, Gary Burton, who I'd seen back in the sixties when he had long hair, on the vibraphone and marimba, American Bill Frisell on guitar and balaika, and Norma Winstone, a revered British jazz vocalist, and Bonnie Herman on wordless vocals.

I knew this was one album I had to have, no matter what. And it lead me onto a musical path I have rarely strayed from. European Jazz had been a turn off for me in the sixties and early seventies, all that free-form squiddley-squaddly was not in tune with my biorhythms or something of that time.

But this spacey stuff, giving room for thoughts that strayed beyond what was being played, mood music but definitely not muzak, seemed to be what I had looked for. I explored the catalogue, especially Eberhard Weber. I don't play any instrument, to my eternal regret - painting and writing have been my main creative outlets without monetary motive. Ah, but if I did, it would be the bass.

And through Eberhard I discovered Jan Garbarek, the Norwegian saxophonist who can conjure up the emptiness of fjords, and guitarists Ralph Towner, John Abercrombie, Terje Rypdal and Pat Metheny. And Keith Jarrett, whose Kőln Concert provided Manfred Eicher with his first hit record.

Manfred who?

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

To refer to ECM simply as a record label feels like a perverse understatement. Founded in 1969, ostensibly as a jazz label, ECM has come to embody a feel and an approach to the meeting of jazz, classical, contemporary and world music that is difficult to quite define, but - once you've encountered it - instantly recognisable. From Estonian minimalist Arvo Part to Black Power icons the Art Ensemble of Chicago, from the film soundtracks of Jean-Luc Godard to the piano sonatas of JS Bach, the defining, overarching element in all ECM's music is the label itself.

Elegant, moody, austere and profoundly European, the ECM vibe comes with an element of seductive difficulty - a sense that the effort of the listener will be both required and rewarded that it can be peculiarly compelling, even addictive.

I have over 100 ECM albums. I have also been to many concerts by ECM artists, the last one of which was Pat Metheny's gig here in Jakarta on 22nd October 1995. There were only 3 expats in the audience, one of whom this week gave me a copy of a pirated CD with 13 Pat Metheny albums on, only five of which I hadn't got a digitalised copy of.

And the one album I want for my desert island has to be the first one I heard, Fluid Rustle. (Listen to it here - free.)




6:30 am |
Friday, September 19, 2008
  Altruism - For Whose Sake?

The death of at least 21 people in the stampede in Pasuruan, a small town in East Java, for a handout that amounts to about US$3.50 has raised a number of questions and an almost philosophical debate in the media, both formal and informal.

There are probably many ways you could look at the issue. Perhaps you could look at it from an economic perspective and analyse the value of life and the costs of getting into heaven. maybe you could look at it from a law and order perspective. You might look at it from a public negligence perspective, or as some have suggested you might want to look at this from the perspective of a complete breakdown in the trust of the people for their public institutions such as the police.

There is also the matter of the benefactors not having the foresight to consider the consequences of their actions.

What this has clearly demonstrated is that a reliance on personal donations is not the best way to survive and overcome the burdens of life. However, it is necessary to ask just who should be responsible.

As an unashamed idealist, I continue to believe that in a supposedly democratic nation, a country governed by the people for the people, we should all be responsible for caring for those unable to care for themselves. However, I am not referring to the notion of giving for the sake of giving. That way lies egoism, the complete antithesis of the meaning of altruism: the doctrine that the general welfare of society is the proper goal of an individual's actions.

Children should have an education system that enables them to realise their potentials as creative individuals rather than 'human resources' geared, A,B,C or D, to consume, seemingly what the current Indonesian school curriculum aims for.

Coming second just means that you are merely first in a long of losers.

That is a 'motto' spotted recently on a classroom wall in a supposedly Christian school. Muslims too are not exempt from that notion. Why else flaunt one's wealth through the very public giving of alms? "I'm richer than you."?

Medical care should not just be for those who can afford it: it should mean a reinforcement of the puskesmas and posyandu, the system of primary health care based on community needs, a system which has deteriorated due to diminished resources following Suharto's abdication.

As a former director of a (British) registered charity, a non-faith based one, I have long held to the credo of helping others to help themselves. It is never enough to just give cash. Most folk in need of financial aid also need self-confidence and the knowledge that it is possible, albeit with help, to dig oneself out of the hole one finds oneself in.

Give (non-GM) seeds rather than bread, give a loom rather than a rich nation's cast off clothes (available at Pasar Senen in Jakarta), prevent rather than cure.

Ah, but I dream. I am not Canute, although I will probably always swim against the current, just to make it more difficult for those who callously disregard others, the Bakries of this world who when charged with people's welfare continue to enrich themselves, leaving mud and tear stained refugees in their wake.

The above has been penned following the receipt of an email this morning "because (my) blog has a loyal following".

The email is from International Medical Corps, which "has the ability to save the lives of malnourished children around the world and we just received some very exciting news. We have been nominated to be one of the Top 25 in American Express' Projects, 'Saving the Lives of Malnourished Children.' Our project was chosen out of 1,190 projects and is now eligible to receive up to $1.5 million to help feed hungry children."

All it takes to donate is a click from the IMC link above.

Not being a holder of an AMEX card, and wary of the current meltdown in the capitalists' financial world of greed, I was uncertain about why those outside the country would be interested in the goings on here in Indonesia as documented here, especially as I hadn't been aware of IMC before today.

However, IMC does have a page dedicated to their work here, primarily in the provision of care in the wake of quakes and the tsunami.

And further reading tells me about the following projects:
* Rehabilitating Aceh’s healthcare system, which involves rebuilding village clinics, hospitals, and midwife posts and improving access to them via bridge and road projects; training staff for and re-equipping more than 60 community-based mother and child health centers; and the operation of mobile clinics throughout the province until permanent facilities are fully functioning;

* Rebuilding livelihoods by giving residents the chance to earn their own income through a variety of vocational programs such as boat-building, lobster fishing, goat breeding, carpentry, tailoring, and brick works, which has, to date, helped more than 250 families reestablish their livelihoods; and

* Improving emergency response by working with a local partner, Ambulan 118 - a national organization of Indonesian health professionals - to transfer the skills and knowledge needed so that they will be able to rebuild their own health care system in case of future crises.

So their notion of altruism fits with mine. Need I say more?


4:30 pm |
  PEER Group

In researching the above post I discovered the Program for Enhancement of Emergency Response . This seems to be a good idea. After all, there have certainly been a lot of emergencies here over the past ten years.

Indonesia is subject to many different natural hazards as well as man-made disaster such as earthquakes, tsunami, volcanic eruptions, forest fires, flood, and also technological failures - such as the Lapindo Brantas cock up which caused the Sidoarjo mudflow.

Disasters are a frequent occurrence in Indonesia, often resulting in death and disability. All types of disasters occur, man-made and natural, and frequently located in far away islands. This results in poor response times, so that a good first responder system would certainly lessen the impact.

Disaster Management Implementation Unit

The encompassing national organization for Disaster Management is the Badan Koordinasi Nasional Penangulangan Bencana (Bakornas PB), which is a coordinating board, headed by the coordinating minister for People Welfare ~ who is none other than our old friend, Abdurizal Bakrie, one of the Bakrie Boys who own much of Lapindo Brantas responsible for the (non-) payment of compensation to the refugees.

Go figure.


4:29 pm |
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
  Truth Kills

This country seemingly lurches from one 'disaster' to another. The latest man-made event has seen the death of some 21 women, many elderly or widowed, who were rushing to receive Rp.30,000 being handed out by a local businessman, Saykhon Fikri, in Pasuaran, East Java. He was performing his religious duty of donating 2.5% of his wealth during the fasting month of Ramadan.

About 2,000 people turned up, from far and wide, because the expected donation, c.US$3.3, could be twice as much as their daily earnings. Elsewhere, the question is raised as to why no police were on hand to control the crowd, many of whom were trampled and crushed to death.

I'm more worried though that there is an almost insurmountable breakdown in respect for local legislatures, government agencies and bureaucracies.

Nur Syam, rector of the Sunan Ampel Islamic Teaching Institute (IAIN) in Surabaya, East Java, said Saykhon did not allow the local government-run charity to distribute his family's tithe out of fear the funds would not reach the intended recipients.
(Source: Jakarta Post)

Also on Monday, in Makassar, South Sulawesi, in a parallel incident but luckily without any fatalities because police were on hand to control the queues, thousands of "impoverished residents" stormed 12 post offices to get their Rp.400,000 (c.US$43) direct cash aid. This is the second phase of government aid for registered poor people following the removal of oil subsidies earlier this year. The government has authorised the PT Pos Indonesia to disburse the funds.

Small money, big worries.


4:00 pm |
  Big Money, Small Worries

SBY is currently in some hot water because a friend and member of his inner circle has been hoaxed. Twice. Maybe.

His advisor Heru Lelono believed that seawater could be converted into fuel and that the production of an untested new rice variety could yield twice as much as others.

If SBY has been 'embarrassed' by the hybrid rice known as Supertoy HL2, then surely so have many of the political and business élite.

Last year, at a ceremony in Chengdu, China, witnessed by visiting Vice President Jusuf Kalla and the Minister of Agriculture Anton Apriyantono along with other Indonesian officials and representatives of local governments in China, an agreement was signed between the Artha Graha group, through PT Penta Prima Pusaka, along with the Sichuan Guohao Seeds Industry (SGSI) of China, to supply hybrid seeds to Indonesian agribusiness.

Artha Graha is the conglomerate fronted by Tommy Winata, the army backed oligarch who doesn't like Tempo magazine. It's also worth noting that Taufik Kiemas, husband of former President Megawati, has a stake in the hybrid seed industry.

So all this posturing about nepotism in the Presidential Office is surely mere politicking before the Presidential election due next year, an election which incumbent is still favourite to win, as well as to divert attention, much like the Pornography Bill, from the gross misdeeds of our public 'servants'.

A year ago I put together a series of posts on Green Indonesia examining the hybrid seed industry here.

I wrote about the 'establishment' which is riding roughshod over the interests of local farming communities, who are rapidly losing their traditional knowledge and, indeed, the seed stores which have adjusted to local conditions over many harvests to give satisfactory yields .

None of the new breed of seeds have yet been proven to benefit farmers; all have created a dependency on specific fertilisers which have poisoned land and yet produced decreasing yields.


3:30 pm |
Monday, September 15, 2008
  I Don't Like Pornography, Bill

Dear Bill,

I don't like faux piety, which is what is being displayed by House of Representative legislators from the following 'political' parties - the Golkar Party and Islamic parties such as the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the United Development Party (PPP) and the Crescent Star Party (PBB), and a few members of National Awakening Party (PKB) and the National Mandate Party (PAN).

Yep, as a Ramadhan present, these foes of democracy are rushing through a revised version of the Porn Bill which loads of us railed against two and a half years ago and thought we'd managed to put on the back burner.

Instead of which it's been in the back rooms of a working party and has been 'tested' (eh?) in three cities - Makassar in South Sulawesi, Banjarmasin and Ambon in Maluku - which are presumably remote and/or Islamic enough to not offer much resistance.

Well, Jakartass stands proudly alongside all those who have declared opposition to this unnecessary sanctimonious bullshit.

I would also like to offer the following which is also in today's Jakarta Post but for some reason not online.

An enormous scandal is erupting over the election of senior deputy Bank Indonesia governor Miranda S. Goeltom in 2004. Following her election, some 400 traveler's checks - each worth Rp.50 million (c.$5,500) were given to 41 House of Representative legislators on Commission IX.

Although Ibu Miranda denies that she knew anything about the payments, she was elected with 41 votes. A coincidence? One way or another, the truth will out.

The then House Commission IX which oversaw her election consisted of 17 members of ex-President Megawati's PDI-P, 15 from Golkar, headed by Vice President Yusuf Kalla, 7 from the (Islamist) United Development Party (PPP) 6 from the (Islamist) National Awakening Party (PAN), 4 from the 'Reform Faction', 3 from minority parties and 4 from the Military Police faction which I wasn't aware of.

If Miranda seriously knew nothing of this, then who were behind this massive effort of vote rigging - and why?

And doesn't it seem odd that, although Megawati's PDI-P is against the Pornography Bill, the other parties involved in the then Commission IX are actively, yet secretively, promoting it?

The Pornography Bill itself is purely a masturbatory matter, whereas Commission IX has tried to exploit the entire population.

Last week, KPK announced that it had handed over to the state more than Rp.364.3 billion (US$38.6 million) received from suspects this year. This amount did not include luxury cars, land, buildings and jewelery which are being stored at the Law and Human Rights Ministry. There are also documents on 170,000 square metres and 147,000 square metres of land in South East Maluku, and a couple of houses.

That's the pornography I don't like, Bill.

Best wishes,



6:30 pm |
Sunday, September 14, 2008
  My Desert Islands Discs 4

I am a long term fan of the so-called Canterbury music scene, initially through strange coincidental personal connections. Back in ’69 I moved into a flat in London rented by an ex-pupil of Simon Langton School, which was the alma mater of various luminaries of that scene.

I replaced a guy whose then girlfriend became my second wife six years later (and mother of Son No.1), though I didn’t meet her then. The drummer of Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt, went to her first wedding and she knew nearly everybody in those early days.

I had always been a jazz fan, long before I encountered this ‘progressive’ music, so I was ready, especially as substances from war zones were there to be rolled into Rizlas to enhance my musical horizons.

Frequent visitors to the flat included Caravan’s keyboard player, Dave Sinclair, and Robert Wyatt. I also met many of the other musos including the wonderful Kevin Ayres, "one of the great voices in British music".

So I went to loads of gigs. I may even have contributed to some of their music. I can’t really remember ~ which may prove something ~ that I really banged on a beer bottle or something at a Kevin recording, alongside Caravan et al, at the Roundhouse recording studio in 69/70.

Caravan were more rock-orientated. Admittedly their songs often had trite lyrics, albeit sung with good clear British accents, but these were combined with the sheer orgasmic power of tight musicianship for suites which lasted for a whole side of a vinyl album. Music to groove to whilst skinning up; the soundtrack of my initial bachelor days. And now there's talk of a 41st Anniversary tour.

Soft Machine were support group on Jimi Hendrix’s first tour of the States and bootlegs of their musical meetings have recently surfaced, officially. They were also the first (only?) group to play a prestigious Prom, and alumni have continued to release albums, particularly on MoonJune Records, currently under the name Soft Machine Legacy.

And the gigs. These were family get-togethers. There is a Yahoo group which has sudden eruptions of “Do you remember when…?” And I do. I remember spliffs being passed round at gigs like chain letters: you’d get more back than you sent out. It was family. In spite of a few gigs which seemed to anticipate superstardom with untold riches to cascade, somehow it never quite happened. Kevin Ayres said "he'd rather go fishing" and 'musical differences' sent members spinning off in different directions and making loads of friends while they're at it..

And we fans have followed.

I have over 100 albums plus around 50 bootlegs of concerts and demo recordings related to the Canterbury scene, and most get played regularly, depending on my 'need'.

On Saturdays, when I need an orgasmic rush, I'll play Caravan’s early albums such as Land of Grey and Pink or For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night. On Sundays, I'll play minimalist tracks by Soft Machine, alongside albums by Eno, Terry Riley or Philip Glass. On weekdays, I'll sing along with Robert Wyatt or, in an eccentric poppier vein, Kevin Ayres.

And if I have to choose just one album as a reminder of good times ........

It could be live recording rather than one with super-duper fidelity. I may have been in the audience* or may have seen the band on that particular tour^.
Soft Machine - At the Proms Hatfield & The North in Paris Sept. 25 1973^
Caravan & The New Symphonia ('74)*
Caravan - Live at the Fairfield Halls 1974*
Robert Wyatt & Friends in Concert - Sunday 8th September 1974*

Or maybe a tribute album would be in order.

For example, there's Polysoft's Tribute to Soft Machine. (Paris live in 2002 with Hugh Hopper, and Elton Dean guesting) which captures my favourite era of the band, SM 2 - 6.
There are tributes to Robert Wyatt too, notably Annie Whitehead's SoupSongs and Cpt. Kirk & The More Extended Versions - Round About Wyatt.

Ah, decisions, decisions.

On a 'tropical island' there is the ambient music of the waves, of the wind rustling palm leaves, of the scattering of sand grains. There is also the music of the body, of heart beats, foot tapping and finger clicking.

Given this notional image of tranquility, I'll plump for Delta Sax 4tet - Dedicated to Soft Machine, an interplay of four saxophonists taking Soft Machine's music into new realms, and thus demonstrating how crucial Soft Machine was, is and continues to be.

(Strange to think that considering its importance through most of my life, I've never actually been to Canterbury, but merely passed through on my way to foreign shores.)




8:00 am |
Friday, September 12, 2008
  Who Runs Jakarta?

There's Governor Fuddy Bozo and a deputy governor whose picture can be seen on peeling stickers around town dating from FB's election a couple of years ago. (If you can honestly name his DG* without using a search engine, do let me know.)

Then there's a bunch of councillors. There are 75 of them and unlike FB and his DG, they were not elected directly but gained their sinecures based on the numbers of votes cast for the various political parties they belonged to. Thus they were not elected to represent the electorate but the interests of these political parties: Golkar (only 6 councillors but with the Speaker as an 'extra'), PKS (19, inc. a Deputy Speaker), P-Dem (16, inc. a Deputy Speaker), PDI-P (11, inc. a Deputy Speaker), PPP (7), PAN (6), PDS (4), PKB (4), PBR (2). There are also 10 non-elected councillors who supposedly represent the 'regions'. I cannot recall how they got their seats

I'm not actually sure what the role of the councillors is, although when elected they did mouth all the right platitudes about their priorities in combatting corruption, improving transport, dealing with garbage disposal and the economy. Theirs presumably.

Can anyone honestly say that things have got better in the nearly four years since they were elected? And who is your 'regional' councillor?

Whoever they are, they are expected to run this city.

Occasionally we get to hear about various initiatives. For example, we have been informed recently that the city administration is considering investing in the state-owned railway company PT Kereta Api.

"We see the importance of investing in the company because we plan to integrate spatial planning around train stations, railway-road junctions, underpasses and overpasses," Governor Fauzi Bowo said Tuesday.

So, what's new?

The JP archives going back at least 5 years have articles extolling the virtues of an integrated transport system, and all we have is yet more talk.

'Plans', ''targets', 'considering', 'proposed': these are all fine words which mask prevarication.

In 2003, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) showed that commuters from Jakarta's adjacent cities took one-and-a-half-hours on average to reach their workplace in Jakarta due to traffic congestion.

A JICA team under the leadership of Tomokazu Wachi prepared a study on a proposed integrated transportation plan for Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi (SITRAMP) aimed at producing to solve traffic problems in the city.

Wachi said, "Regional administrations in Greater Jakarta should increase their coordination to tackle traffic problems in the area. A clear identification of role-sharing is also needed between the central government and regional administrations at the provincial, municipal and regency levels."

Also in 2003, Lalu A. Damanhuri of Infrastructure Planning & Development Specialist Committee for Infrastructure Development Policy (KKPPI), said it best.

Building new roads, flyovers and underpasses in the absence of measures to limit transportation demand and improve traffic flow may simply result in more roads full of traffic jams.

Similarly, strengthening public transport will be ineffective in the absence of transportation demand management to discourage car and motorcycle use, and traffic engineering to give priority to public transportation vehicles.

Planning should encourage urban forms which minimize transport needs, encourage non-motorized transport (cycling, walking) and allow for efficient public transportation service.

An integrated infrastructure? Wow.

Unfortunately, all we seem to get are various limited initiatives. For example, Jakarta transportation agency head Muhammad Tauchid has suggested that working hours should be adjusted for the private sector in accordance with the working hours of civil servants.

"There will be a timing difference between the two that is expected to help reduce traffic congestions," he said.

Do private working hours really need regulating by an inefficient City Hall? Why not offer incentives (such as reduced fares in non-peak hours) to encourage companies to operate flexitime for their staff? And why not adjust the working hours of the bloated bureaucrats instead?

Another worrying problem is that the number of motorcycles in Jakarta has quadrupled by 300 percent (eh?) within the last four years - a worrying development if left unchecked, transportation officials and experts said Friday.

Sure is: bureaucrats who don't understand basic mathematics should certainly be checked.

Jakarta transportation agency head Muhammad Tauchid concurred, adding that the phenomenon is not only a contributing factor to the city’s worsening traffic, but also a hazard to other motorists.

He added that the city administration and transportation agency would be implementing several measures to anticipate the rapid increase of motorcycles in the city, which had reportedly grown by 3.5 million units this year alone.

One of the initiatives to be introduced early next year is a designated road lane for motorcycles.

“The decision is deemed a step forward in attempting to alleviate traffic congestion,” Tauchid said. “The other measure is to increase vehicle tax.”

That's what is needed - decisive thinking. Maybe.

SBY has also had a few ideas about making Jakarta a better place for all. He is a commuter from his weekend spread on the road to Bogor to his presidential pad in Central Jakarta and gets to see, but not experience, the regular gridlock. (Traffic is held up so he can pass witrh his outriders and entourage.)

So what are we to make of Presidential Decree No.54/2008 which actually regulates spatial planning on Jabodetabekpunjur (Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, Bekasi, Puncak and Cianjur), focusing on issues such as drainage, waste water, transport, and garbage disposal. Has it really taken more than five years to gestate?

Of course, it could all mean loads more meetings with officials from various bureaucracies, probably a foreign trip or two to see how others do integrate their shopping with 'official business', but that is cynical conjecture.

Integrated flood management is covered by Article 21 of the decree (which) stipulates that drainage and flood control systems must integrate river management with the current regional drainage system, in addition to prioritizing forest rehabilitation and revitalization of reservoirs and flood control dams.

Gadis Sri Haryani, director of the water resources department at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), suggested that communities in upstream areas should be educated about ecofriendly sources of income, such as ecotourist whitewater rafting.

Article 15 of the new decree sets out laws for the development of mass transit systems to connect Jakarta and surrounding areas.

It also stipulates that the administrations should improve the railway network in certain areas to serve commuters better.

Bambang Susantono of the Indonesian Transportation Society said the decree "would allow the monorail, mass rapid transit (MRT) system and busway networks to expand into surrounding cities".

Until now, Jakarta administration has only been able to develop transportation systems within its administrative territory, even though each day the capital sees millions of commuters from neighboring cities.

Deputy Governor Prijanto* hadn't heard about the issuance of the decree, but he did say that the new regulations would unite development in Jakarta and its greater areas.

"For me, it's a good sign to start working together with adjacent regions, especially in spatial planning."



4:30 pm |
Thursday, September 11, 2008
  A Penabur day.

Normal service will be resumed when I can get my act together.



4:30 pm
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
  Telkom Speedy Isn't

A popular letter (in Indonesian) - read over 800 5460 times when I last looked - in the leading broadsheet, Kompas, complains about the virtually non-existent broadbandwidth of the 'leading' telecommunications company in Indonesia.

See? It isn't just me.

And the notion that I should change my ISP is a non-stater. Apart from those with access to the fibre-optic network, all rent bandwidth from either Telkom or Indosat.

So, until such time as these monopolies are done away with, we're all being screwed here!


6:00 pm |
Sunday, September 07, 2008
  My Desert Islands Discs 3

No-one spending their teen years in the sixties would have been unaffected by the Beatles. Infact, it's fair to say that no-one since 1963 has been unaffected judging by their continuing newsworthiness.

They were significant to we Brits at the time because they wrote their own songs, many of which became hits for others. At first they were rebels because they had long hair, albeit seemingly tailored along with their suits. But they were soon lauded as contemporary composers on a par with Mozart.

All that guff passed over my head, except it is worth noting that the second long player album I bought was their second album, With The Beatles. (Since you ask, my first was a Woolworth's cheapo recording of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos.)

What, to my mind, is significant is that if I hear any - and I do mean any - Beatles song, it's imprinted on my mind: I can sing along with it as, no doubt, so can millions of others.

There are places I remember ...... all my life .....

And one such place is Andorra and a road through the Pyrenees, the mountain chain which forms the border between France and Spain. In 1971 I was on my first set of worldly travels; I had no particular direction in mind and was just going where my pig was headed. I'd hitched a ride in France with a German lass driving a Volkswagen Beetle and she had but one album, probably an 8-track cassette - Abbey Road.

It was raining as we drove upwards towards the pass. We rounded a bend at the top and there below us was a lake and it glittered as the clouds cleared and the Beatles sang - and we did too - Here Comes The Sun.

We drove on as the Beatles sang on.

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it's all right.
It's all right.
And it was.




6:00 am |
Saturday, September 06, 2008
  Curb your enthusiasm ....

..... but this is a post about the noble game of football. Folk like Oigal will state that there's only one form of football, Ozzie Rules (AFL), which, thanks to Indovision, can unfortunately be viewed in Jakartass Towers on the Australian Network.

Strangely, last Sunday that channel broadcast a match in the Australian A-League (which is 'real' football rather than a bastard offshoot like AFL), between the Central Coast Mariners from somewhere presumably not inland in the outback and some other side from somewhere else. The match itself was what some commentators would describe as "open", but it reminded me of school playground games which ebb and flow from end to end.

What really intrigued me, however, was CCM's goalkeeper, a now somewhat podgy yet familiar figure. It was Mark Bosnich, the one-time Australia, Manchester United and Chelsea goalkeeper. The last time he'd played professional football before Sunday was for Chelsea away to Everton on November 18 2001 before he tested positive for cocaine, received a nine month ban from football and was sacked by Chelsea. He helped CCM, quite athletically at times, win 4-2.

I only mention this because, to my surprise, I actually enjoyed watching some half way decent football. As I've commented before, we can't watch any football from the self-appointed "best league in the world", England's Premiership (EPL) thanks to monopolistic practices in the local media.

Aora TV, a satellite-based local pay TV service, from PT Karyamegah Adijaya, earned the broadcasting rights for the Premier League from All Asia Multimedia Network and ESPN STAR Sports -- the joint owners of the rights for the Asia market (and owned in turn by the Rupert Murdoch oligarchical conglomerate) -- on Aug. 17. Its service began Aug. 18, two days after the league kicked off.

There is righteous indignation from those viewers who last year subscribed to the then new to Indonesia satellite channel, Astro All Asia Networks. Malaysia's largest cable television had entered into partnership with the local Lippo Group's PT Direct Vision to provide TV "services" to local subscribers, services which were reported to include the EPL rights for two seasons.

However, after one season Astro is severing ties with Lippo because they are owed $245 million. This is apparently due to a row between the oligarchs controlling the two companies - Malaysian Ananda Krishnan and Lippo's James Riady, a Chinese-Indonesian and born-again Christian with a nefarious past.

To my knowledge, Astro is not to be connected to Astra International, the Indonesian flagship conglomerate, now part-owned and controlled by a load of Brits co-opted from Jardine Matheson in Hong Kong. Astra's former President Director and Chief Executive Officer Rini M. Soemarno left to become industry and trade minister, but she has now secured the rights to the EPL through her Aora TV, presumably a subsidiary of DEWA Darma Henwa TBK.

Having thoroughly confused myself - and probably you - with notions of the mass media being playthings for rich folk who really couldn't give a shit for the common folk who have been reduced to addicts panting for their products, let me now turn to the interesting issue of Indonesian football.

Terrestial TV channels do offer various football leagues for viewers. For example, RCTI has broadcast rights for the Champions League and the 2008-2009 Spanish League.

ANtv are focusing only on broadcasting the Indonesian Soccer League as it has paid Rp.100 billion ($10.86 million) for the domestic competition's 10 seasons. I'm not sure if that includes Indonesia's international matches, the most recent of which was with against the friendly nation of Libya.

This resulted in a 3-0 win for Indonesia even though Libya were leading 1-0 at half-time. If you think that is senseless, then so was the assault on the Libyan coach Gamal Adeen Abu-Nowara by an Indonesian official yet to be positively identified and blamed. Indonesia were awarded the match after the Libyans decided to sit tight in their dressing room for the second half.

A day earlier, the Libyan community in Indonesia had celebrated the 39th anniversary of The Great Al-Fateh (September 1969) Revolution, which transformed the United Kingdom of Libya into The Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahirya, at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Jakarta.

Whilst blame is being apportioned, it's worth noting that the president of Indonesia's football association (PSSI), Nurdin Halid, a Golkar party politician and prominent businessman, is currently serving a two-year prison sentence for embezzling 169 billion rupiah ($18.5 million) from a logistics company he headed in 1999. He continues to hold the post for the time being, even though the Indonesian sports minister has threatened to sue PSSI officials if Halid isn't replaced in line with a directive from the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA).

Don't you just love the beautiful game?

Elsewhere in the region, whilst the Jakarta Post suggests that Thailand could do with help in following Indonesia's path on their road to democracy (shurely shum joke - hic), Thailand has appointed former Manchester City, Sunderland and Leeds manager Peter Reid as their country's new coach on a four year contract.

That rules him out for this week's vacancies at Premiership clubs Newcastle and West Ham whose managers have resigned citing interference from the clubs' respective owners.

I doubt that Kevin Keegan would be interested, but I do wonder if Alan Curbishley, now ex-Hammers guv'nor, on the left being saluted by Charlton's then players and we Addicks as he 'retired' from his labours at the Valley a couple of seasons ago, could be tempted to become Indonesia's national soccer supremo.

Alan is well-respected, a strict task master and is a Mr. Clean, so I for one would support the idea. Whether the corruptors who control the local sports federations would feel comfortable with him at the helm is, of course, a debatable point.

So, it may be best to curb one's enthusiasm for change here.

(Those of you really interested in local, meaning south-east Asia, football match reports and news would do well to log on to the Jakarta Casual blog.)


4:00 pm |
Friday, September 05, 2008
  Subject: Climate crisis: islands disappearing

Amongst my email subscriptions is Avaaz.org, which is "an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means "voice" in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Paris, Washington DC, and Geneva."

They regularly seek a massive number of signatures for petitions in support of their various campaigns.

I believe that supporting their latest campaign is probably more important than most in that it draws attention to a matter that concerns everyone and every living thing on this planet.
----- Original Message -----
From: Ben Wikler - Avaaz.org
To: Jakartass
Sent: Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Dear friends,

Next week, desperate due to accelerating sea level rise, a group of small islands' leaders plan to take the unprecedented step of putting a resolution before the United Nations calling upon the Security Council itself to address climate change. Stand with these threatened people:

Imagine the sea rising around you as your country literally disappears beneath your feet, where the food you grow and the water you drink is being destroyed by salt, and your last chance is to seek refuge in other lands where climate refugees have no official status. This is not a dream, it's the fearful reality for millions of people who live on islands around the world, from the Maldives to Papua New Guinea.

That is why these small islands are planning the unprecedented step next week, ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting, of calling on the Security Council itself to address climate change as a pressing threat to international peace and security.

This is a creative move born of desperation, a challenge to global powers to end their complacency and tackle this lethal crisis with the urgency of wars. This effort could help shift the tenor of the world's debate -- from a far-off storm cloud to a life-threatening crisis here and how. But the island states' campaign will meet fierce opposition from the world’s biggest polluters, so they need our help. Sign the petition now to raise a worldwide chorus of support for this call -- our signatures will be presented to the UN by the islands' ambassadors as they introduce their resolution next week:

Arctic ice is melting so fast that, for the first time in human history, you can sail straight through the Arctic. Hurricanes and other extreme weather patterns are growing in size and number. As an Avaaz member in St. Kitts writes, "While those in the US can evacuate an area when a powerful hurricane is on its way, those of us on the islands do not have that option." Now, small island nations -- whose highest points are often only a few meters above sea level -- are preparing evacuation plans to guarantee the survival of their populations.

President Remengesau of Palau, a small island in the Pacific, recently said: Palau has lost at least one third of its coral reefs due to climate change related weather patterns. We also lost most of our agricultural production due to drought and extreme high tides. These are not theoretical, scientific losses -- they are the losses of our resources and our livelihoods.... For island states, time is not running out. It has run out. And our path may very well be the window to your own future and the future of our planet".

Beyond the islands, countries like Bangladesh -- population, 150 million -- face losing large parts of their landmass. The experience of our planet's most vulnerable communities serves as a warning sign of the future world we can all expect: extreme weather growing in intensity, conflict over water and food supplies, coasts disappearing and hundreds of millions made refugees.

The more signatures we raise to be delivered to the UN next week, the more urgently this call will ring out to protect our common future. Sign now.

The small islands' brave campaign for survival is our campaign as well. Just as sea levels rise or fall everywhere at the same time, the choices of every person everywhere affect the future of our common home. By standing with the people at the front line of the climate crisis, we show them, and ourselves, that we recognize our fundamental shared humanity -- and the responsibilities that come with it.

With hope,
Ben and the Avaaz team

PS: More information is at these links.

A draft of the Small Islands States Resolution.

More information about those presenting the petition. These are the States who are sponsoring the resolution: Fiji, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, joined by Canada and Turkey.

Given that Indonesia is the world's largest archipelago, I'm somewhat surprised that they aren't a signatory to the resolution. As the oceans rise, many islands will disappear, and Jakarta may well be inundated too.

More information about all of the island states.

Information on Tuvalu's evacuation plan and climate refugees.

Information about how rising sea levels will affect us all.

More information on the rapidly-melting Arctic ice:


4:00 pm |
Thursday, September 04, 2008
  I'm Patriotic.

Why else would I publish the following?

Prize survey for our potential international students

The British Council and UK Border Agency (the official British Government agency for visa services) run an annual survey which helps us to understand the motivations and attitudes of students looking to come to study in the UK.

The survey helps us to make sure we are providing the right information and support for students.

This year the British Council are offering loads of prizes for those who fill out the survey - you could win an X-Box 360 or an Apple MacBook, some i-tune vouchers and loads more great gear!

The survey takes only 15 minutes to complete and every 50th participant wins a prize - last year over 560 winners were selected from over 90 countries!

Enter the survey here!

"Every 50th participant wins a prize."

Of course, that little statement says it all really. The UK universities want the money from overseas students because they're underfunded by the UK government; they've turned themselves into supermarkets, offering goodies in order to get you to spend more.

And some reports suggest that supermarket goodies are bad for you.

The National Consumer Council said fatty and sugary foods now made up more than half (54%) of in-store supermarket promotions, nearly double the number recorded in the last survey in 2006.

Once upon a time universities offered a range of courses and you applied for what seemed to be the most appropriate for you at the time. That may well be true for some students, but I can think of several students who have been left in the lurch here in Jakarta because their university thought more about incoming fees than the quality of their courses.

And, yes, I'm thinking of the Ukrida Penabur International programme from which Curtin University in Perth, Australia, has withdrawn. Students have written to me with complaints about the generally poor service from Penabur staff who raised fees seemingly arbitrarily and then denied access to Curtin lecturers visiting Jakarta. I can only surmise that these were some of factors behind Curtin's decision.

Sadly, this is all the result of 'globalisation' and the drive for homogeneity rather than encouraging quests to realise one's potential in an open and creative manner.

Yep, I'm patriotic because as well as being a world citizen, I'm a country unto myself.


5:30 pm |
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
  More Corporate Bullshit

I don't want to hear about CSR, which supposedly stands for Corporate Social Responsibility.

I don't want to hear about responsibility to shareholders either because they rarely assume responsibility for the failings of the company they've bought into.

And don't tell me about companies that go bankrupt or which get ripped off by the board of directors shareholders have voted in.

What I do want to hear about are companies which take seriously their responsibilities towards their customers and clients.

For the past 10 years, from shortly after Suharto's abdication, I have been an Indosat client.

For the past three days I have been unable to access those emails sent to my Indosat address whether through my Outlook Express or through the Indosat webmail page.

The message I get is this: Could not connect to the specified mail server. Please check your account settings.

I haven't changed my user name or password in the past ten years, so wtf is going on?

I managed to get through to a nice Mr. Yoko in customer service who verified who I am and went off to check something he already knew about. Yes there are mail server problems at their end which won't be fixed until Friday! And this applies to nearly all Indosat email clients.

In terms of important documents and pay claims, I use a different account, and basically all I expect to be hidden in the Indosat's bit of hyperspace are a few Yahoo group messages, a few links from DJ and half a dozen spam messages from Nigeria. So maybe I'm not going to suffer too much. However ....

I use the Indosat STMP to send messages. Of the ten phone numbers provided for my dial up connection, just one is semi-reliable. Just one.

Mr. Yoko could not offer me solace on this one and I almost felt sorry for him as mine was but one more in the litany of complaints he's receiving this week.

But 'almost' is the operative word.

I was interested to learn last Friday that not only did Indosat's profits rise by 45% in 2007 "due to an increase in revenue" last year, but in the first half of this year total assets, net income and basic earnings per share all rose by 20+%. (Net income was Rp.1,055,819 million = c.$120 million 'profit'.)

So will we Indosat clients receive a deduction in our service fees on a par with the gains made at our expense?

Will we f**k.

Oh, and Indosat's CSR programme is a competition, the Indosat Wirelss (sic) Innovation Contest (IWIC) 2008. This is all about getting users, especially junior high school students, to waste more time playing with Indosat gadgets.

Don't these folk know that there's a life to be had out in the real world?


3:00 pm |
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
  Good and Badui

Anyone contemplating a weekend in West Java and seeking an insight into the mysterious, even mystical, ways of the Badui should be forewarned that getting within reach of their 'national park' is not the easiest of journeys. It's not so much the appalling condition of the roads, both major and minor, as the fact that it's necessary to travel through much of the night in order to arrive at the 'gateway', the small town of Ciboleger, in time to put in a full day's hiking.

For city folk such as ourselves, this could be a serious undertaking. Our group of three grandparents, seven parents and seven children aged between five and fifteen plus a pembantu (housemaid), an aunt and a mate - a total of sixteen if you can work out the relationships, did okay.

We made contact with our guide and porter just beyond the gate in Kadu Ketug, one of the outermost outer Badui villages. As we were kitting up, adjusting supplies and generally wondering how we were going to cope after a fairly sleepless Friday night, we watched a long line of army squaddies wending their way in escorted by Badui from both the inner area, wearing white, and outer area, wearing black. A couple of squaddies told us that they were happy to be there because "there were no police".

The first day's trek, to our overnight stay was accomplished without great difficulty, apart from me having to cope with the extra bucketload of beef rendang prepared by 'Er Indoors for our evening meal. It didn't make for easy portage and I was tempted to dump it into the river below this swaying and creaking bamboo bridge. After all, I am nominally a vegetarian.

The bridges in Badui land are expected to last six years, with occasional patches, before they are torn down and replaced. Most of us thought that this particular representative of vernacular architecture was at least eight years old.

Just on the right can be seen a building site; the erection of a wood framed rumah panggung, a house built on wooden stilts placed on rocks or dug into the ground. Layers of split bamboo make up the walls and floor that, according to Badui custom, must remain above the ground, overlapping layers of sugar palm leaves tied to the top of the wooden stilts act as the roof. Construction is very much a manly and communal occupation, and remarkably quick.

On the left is one of a series of rice barns, not that I saw any rice growing. Something I did notice on the outskirts of a couple of villages were round holes in the ground which at first I took to be partly drilled wells. Actually they were banana stores: the fruit is placed in the holes, covered with banana leaves and left for a couple of weeks, after which thebananas are semi-cooked and ready for consumption.

This is a view of the village we stayed in that night.

That was some night. Sleeping on a bamboo floor exposed to the elements, albeit with a roof to keep off the rain which didn't come, is not the best way to recover from a day's trekking after a sleepless night, but somehow the repeated sleeps - is it light yet? - worked.

We had eaten before it got dark and then ghost stories were told to the children - "It's ok to scream now" - and we adults settled down to chat about this and that. As darkness drew in there was an overwhelming sense that we were returning to humanity's roots where artifices and inessentials were few.

At some point, needing a pee, I was pointed in the right direction but couldn't. It wasn't so much that I can't when being watched but something was preventing the flow, so I prayed to the tree in front of me: "Excuse me tree, I need to pee" and, lo, it worked.

'Er Indoors told us of one of our party who'd given me a much-needed foot massage whilst I was trying to haunt the dreams of our younger ones; she had come to realise that she could 'cure' people, as she certainly did with my foot. Both wives are taking 'lessons' from a 'wise' lady we know who Suharto's wife consulted regularly..

A strange sight, apart from a youth wearing a T-shirt declaring that "Punk's Not Dead", was the amount of litter along the paths, much of it actually dropped by the Badui themselves. Here we were doing our best to leave the place as we found it, only to realise that we were actually trying to leave it better. I wondered if the Badui, with ancient roots, were similar in certain respects to the Mentawai of Siberut Island who I visited some 15 years ago. They believe that their environment is pre-ordained and everything has a value. They adapt to the modern world in limited ways, but the outer ring protects their inner 'sacred' sanctum, and what we are allowed to see is of relative insignificance.

Litter is ephemeral, as are we visitors.

There is much more I could record, of the torrential rain the next day which lead me to wipe out a few of my friends as I failed to ski down a muddy incline, and of the joys of fresh air and the sound of nature with no electronic intrusions as we had left iPods and PSPs back in the car park. However, I could also ponder the significance of one of our party 'guiding' us with a GPS phone - "It's 400 metres in a straight line" took way over an hour.

I bought some souvenirs, some honey in a Tehbotol bottle, a length of ikat, woven cloth we'd seen various women clicking-clacking at on their looms, and a length of 'traditional design' batik cloth, made industrially, probably in Solo. Whatever, our little injection of cash should go some way to fueling their lamps.

We were strangers in a strange land and I don't think we were particularly welcome. Anthropologists make it their business to explore the traditions, language and culture of 'ethnic' groups, but I'd prefer to let them be and to learn what I can as I pass through without asking too many questions.

I was contented that weekend, so I'd like to cross into their world again.

Photos 1 and 3 © 'An Old Blogging Friend'


5:30 pm |
Monday, September 01, 2008
  Fasting Food

Today is the first day of Ramadhan, the Muslim fasting month. In the spirit of assisting any Muslims who might be tempted to break their fast early, I offer the following.

It's a meat cake, a cake made to look like meat.

If that doesn't put you off food for a while, then you're a weaker Muslim than me.

And I'm not.

Selamat bulan buasa.

Others who aren't sure what they like or want can get cosmic guidance from this site.

Cosmic Ordering is the process of identifying something you want or need in your life and then simply placing the order with the cosmos by asking for it. Visualize what it is you want, lightly holding that request in your mind without worry or attachment to the outcome, and then releasing it to the the cosmos. The cosmic ordering service should then be left to fulfil your order in its own creative way.

So, if you prefer meat loaf to meat cake, just visualise it.

Me? I'm in my salad days.


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