That larger parties rent planes to get them around this vast archipelago makes sense, so why comment on it?
In the past few weeks there have been a number of non-fatal airplane mishaps. Sriwijaya Air has had a few recently. Last April, one of their Boeing 737s overran a runway and rolled into the adjacent field, injuring 13 passengers. Then, a week or so ago, Sriwijaya was forced to cancel a flight after a bird was sucked into one of its engines just before take off at Radin Inten Airport in Bandar Lampung, South Sumatra. And last Monday, engine failure caused a Sriwijaya Air plane to make an emergency landing at Batam's Hang Nadim.
Golkar, the former Suharto political group/political party, is lead by Jusuf Kalla, the Vice President. The party has chartered a Boeing 737-300 plane from Sriwijaya Air.
“Actually we rent our aircraft to NAC (Nusantara Air Charter), but the aircraft is likely to be used by Golkar,” Sriwijaya’s public relations manager Ruth Hanna Simatupang said.
And who owns NAC? Why, none other than Solihin Kalla, son of Jusuf.
Prabowo Subianto, the former head of the country's Kopassus special forces, and once Suharto's son-in-law, is notorious for human rights abuses.
Although he has denied accusations that he organised terror squads in East Timor during Indonesia's bloody 24-year occupation and that he orchestrated riots and mass rapes of ethnic Chinese women in Jakarta prior to Suharto's fall, he has not shied away from responsibility for the kidnappings of student activists in the last days of his then father-in-law, telling foreign journalists last month his "conscience is clear" over the abductions.
There's no way he can deny it - the army command kicked him out and he went off to build up his fortune in the Lebanon. Much of his wealth is being spent on a media campaign which, if his party gains a sufficient percentage of the votes, will enable him to campaign for the presidency. This election is in July.
What makes this of particular interest is that two of the kidnapped activists are now legislative candidates for Prabowo's party and another heads up his media centre.
Of the 23 activists abducted in 1997 and 1998, one is known to be dead and 13 are missing.
Raharja Waluya Jati was held in a cell for 45 days and tortured in what he suspects, but is not sure, was Kopassus headquarters.
At night, he communicated by yelling down the hall to the three kidnap victims now with Gerindra, and to friends who never returned.
"Prabowo needs the victims to get legitimacy and wash his bloody hands," Jati said, adding the alliance was likely motivated by the victims' own thirst for political power.
"I have four friends still missing now and when I talk to their families they just want to know about their sons. Prabowo knows about everything, including my friends who are still missing."
Apparently, psychiatric hospitals are gearing up for a surge in patients. Individual candidates, by and large, have had to fund their own campaigns and there are bound to be many who end up bankrupt having forked out for stickers, banners, media adverts et al. Those who do end up on the gravy train will be seeking to recoup their outlay, and then some. Hopefully all new legislators will be monitored very closely by the Corruption Eradication Commission.
UnscriptedI'm part of the last generation for whom handwriting was taught as a vital skill. All through school, it was an important part of our lives: you had good handwriting, or you had bad handwriting – at some level, the way you wrote was a part of you, and was judged. That identification with my own script has never left me.From a review of Script and Scribble : The Rise and Fall of Handwriting by Kitty Burns Florey
A couple of days ago I asked well-known local writer Dave Jardine if he could remember the last time he handwrote a letter, went to the post office, bought some stamps, licked them and pasted them on an envelope before consigning his missive to snail mail.
He thought, and then told me that it might have been eighteen months ago.
It may well be longer for me. And you?
When I went to teacher training college I had a fairly well-developed style, but I was then coached, drilled almost, in the nicely rounded print style developed by Marion Richardson, mainly as an aid for young children. An example can be seen here in the banner. It's easy to see from afar and may be the reason that I prefer sans serif to serif, Arial to Times New Roman
, for all my two fingered typing.
Having spent all but fifteen years of my adult life outside my home country, I've generally kept a diary to remind me where I've been or, as with Jakartass, where I am. I spent a year or so backpacking around the world in the late-80's and every month I'd write, or have compiled, a missive for Son.No.1 back 'home'. It was, if I say so myself, highly legible. In fact, my first teaching job in inner London back in 67 was, as the headmaster told me, partly because he liked my handwriting. Whether he'd submitted my application letter to a graphologist, as Eisha Sarkar did
, I don't know.
My pen of choice was a Platinum fountain pen
, firstly with a small lever on the side which squeezed a rubber sac inside to create a vacuum in order to suck up ink, probably Parker Quink in blue or black. Later one could buy cartridges. These pens were a great advance on the nibs attached to a short stick which one dipped into an inkwell fitted in our school desks. These primitive upgrades of the feathered quills used by our forefathers also made fairly dangerous darts. Being being picked as ink monitor was almost a mark of prestige.
Later came disposable ballpoints and with them came a drop in handwriting standards. As there was less friction needed to be applied to the paper one tended to scrawl. As a teacher, later I noticed that using chalk instead of whiteboards and markers produces a similar effect. Incidentally, it was as a kid that I observed that chalk left brown stains on the teachers' fingers. I thought it was a bit of magic, of alchemy, not realising until much later that the job could be so stressful that it made many nicotine addicts of us.
Whatever, perhaps it's the need for greater control as well as the friction but handwriting needs more time to produce than digital txting and that time is generally well spent in thinking. Mind you, being able to cut and paste and instantly delete is certainly a boon in the production of prose and I'm not sure I'd have been able to rewrite Culture Shock-Jakarta without my home computer. The notion of wading through reams and screeds of prose in order to check what has already been written or researched is too daunting for me to consider, but Shakespeare and Dickens did it.
However, diarists such as Samuel Pepys would, of course, have kept a blog
In the past ten years or so, schooling authorities have determined that incessant testing is the key to egalitarian education. They're totally wrong with that notion, which must be the topic of another post, but multi-choice exams do not allow for anything other than the memorising of 'facts' from a set curriculum. Instant responses need instant tools.
Creativity and critical reasoning need a little extra time and handwriting gives time for reflection.
I've got a callous on the side of the top knuckle of my right middle finger. It took years of holding pens and pencils to acquire and I value it because it does take years to reach a definitive and personal, handwriting style. It's therefore part of my identity.
Can Twitterers say the same?
Am I Being Intemperate? Hardly!
Being ever so careful that I offer a balanced blog, allowing other opinions - assuming they are broadly in agreement with mine - I'm taking the liberty of posting a review of the London Buddha Bar by Jay Rayner who had to go as part of his job. Fortunately, I have the choice of not going.
Clumsy, pricey and tasteless, Buddha Bar is enough to test the serenity of a deity, says Jay Rayner.
One of the curiosities of this week's restaurant - along with 'How do they live with themselves?' and 'Why isn't there a baying mob outside with pitchforks and burning torches?' - is that it should be named after a deity whose followers are famed for their serenity and yet should be capable of engendering in me such a blind, raging, spittle-flecked fury. There will be casualties in the restaurant trade as a result of the current economic turmoil; I sincerely hope London's Buddha Bar is one of them.
I should have given up after the hassle of booking. Not merely the five minutes of thrashing hold music nor the irritating demand for my first name (and my usual reply that I only wanted to book a table, not be their pen friend), but also the requirement that I supply an email address. Why? 'Because it's the only way we can confirm you have a reservation.' Really? So putting the name down in a book, the method that's worked for a century or more, isn't good enough? Absolutely not, for when the email arrives it reveals that any table booked before 10pm must be given back within two hours and that, while there is a bar, they don't guarantee you'll be allowed in to it. There is a particular word I could use here, but I refuse to denigrate the honest pleasures of self-abuse purely to make a point.
The London Buddha Bar is part of an international chain. Previously I visited the outpost in Dubai and was struck there by the late middle age of the male clientele, and the oestrogen-rich youth of their friends, who were doubtless their nieces. Here, as there, hedge fund-sized buckets of cash have been spent on filling an empty space (under Waterloo Bridge) with gargantuan Asian artefacts and then turning the lights down so low you can't see any of them. The only one you can see is the enormous Buddha; even as a diehard, to-the-barricades atheist I find the exploitation of a religious symbol like this offensive. There is just enough light by which to read the pan-Asian menu, which was a shame, because it meant we could order.
The food is that killer combination of stupendously clumsy and grossly overpriced. £10 worth of wok-fried salt and pepper calamari and frog's legs was leathery, greasy and unrelenting. The only contrast came from the frog's legs, which promised a little light haemorrhage as the hidden bones punctured your mouth. Worse, and £5 more expensive, was the crayfish and crawfish summer roll, speaking gloomily of an Icelandic summer of wind and rain and general hardship: flavourless crayfish, mushy avocado, dull shredded carrots. The rice-based wrap was so dry as to be edible, but only if you had no choice. We did, so we didn't.
Next, some sushi: £3 a piece, minimum order two pieces. I looked at the unglossy lozenge of tuna. I ran my finger along its edge. It was hard, as if it had been cut long before being plated. Eel and turbot were lifeless. Of the main courses the most cynical was £26 for a meagre portion of Korean seared beef, tender but tasteless, then smeared with a pungent - read unpleasant - tomato sauce. In an attempt to complete the tour of Asia we also had a Thai-style red curry with shrimp, and it was indeed in the style of a Thai curry much as Zimbabwe is in the style of a democracy. The small shrimps - seven of them for £16.50 - were served mixed in with rice inside the husk of a coconut, with the slick of red curry sauce in a saucer on the side. I genuinely do not understand how any self-respecting kitchen can serve up trash like this, at these prices, and still find the will to get up in the morning.
And so to dessert, 'the best part of the meal' as the waiter said. We live in hope, I replied. Only to have it dashed, for the Buddha Bar is where hope, like the ingredients, goes to die. A chocolate fondue for £12.50 - sorry to go on about the prices, but really - brought something congealing in a bowl, without a burner to keep it moving, some friable, dusty meringues, a couple of crumbly biscuits of the sort that are served after Jewish funerals and a little flavour-free fruit.
Was there anything to recommend the place? Yes, our waiter, who was cheerful and efficient and completely wasted here. Save yourself, my friend. Get a job elsewhere. You don't deserve this. And frankly, neither did we.
8 Victoria Embankment, London WC2
Meal for two, including wine and service £175.
Make Mine A Buddha.
There are times when the sheer effrontory of the self-proclaimed élite here beggars belief.
Since the abdication of Soeharto nearly 11 years ago, freed from the tightly controlled corrupt nepotism of his Cendana Clan, named after his family home in Menteng, the central district of Jakarta where Barack Obama spent his early childhood, generals, crony oligarchs and politicos - many wearing all these hats, have enriched themselves without regard for the hoi polloi.
As news comes through of yet another national legislator arrested in the act of receiving a hefty bribe, rather than seeing to important legislation, The Post is highlighting an issue of both religious insensitivity and the arrogance I'm referring to.
For over 100 years, the Dutch Immigration Building at the apex of two streets in Menteng has drawn admiring looks, even more recently as train commuters into town gazed at its dilapidated state. Latterly it served as a bureaucrats' den and, apparently, as a museum. I've always thought that a sensitive restoration could have turned it into an exhibition cum performance space. There are few enough historic buildings left in Jakarta's public domain, and the arts certainly need concerted support from the powers-that-be.
In 2005, during the reign of Governor Sutiyoso the administration, led by former head of culture and museum agency Aurora Tambunan, promised the agency would work with private management to transform the building into a "unique venue" where all Jakartans could partake in all sorts of activities.
The Jakarta administration spent Rp.28 billion (c.$3.2 million) in 2002 to repurchase the old building and poured an additional Rp.6.1 billion into restoring it in 2005.Arie Budhiman, the head of the city tourism and culture agency, said that the building still belonged to the city administration and remained a historical public place.
"It used to be a neglected building until the administration decided to restore it a couple of years ago. Because of our limited budget, we decided to team up with the private sector to support the project.
"We gave the bar management permission to turn the place into Buddha Bar because they were willing to help us restore the building.
"It is open to the public. Everybody can enter the building since it is a restaurant-cum-art gallery," he said.Ah, but is it really open to all?When the Jakarta Buddha Bar, an international franchise, opened last year, with a suitably adulatory puff piece in the Post, they had occupied the entire building.Modelled on the original Paris version, Jakarta's Buddha Bar is about the experience, about stepping out of this world and into another one – one that massages your senses with sights, sounds, textures, tastes and the sheer darn size of the place. No cozy intimacy here: the Jakarta restaurant seats 240, and the lounge and patio can take 700 – still allowing room to wander around looking at the art.
But if you want to share the experience, you have to dress for the occasion. The Jakarta franchise might not (initially) have guest-list-only entry as in Paris, but not just anyone can wander in.
The rules are simple - you’re not getting through that door if you’re not dressed to the nines. And tens and elevens. It appears the Buddha Bar clientele are as much a part of the décor as the Enlightened One himself.
Who will be there every night, of course, a grand unique antique, overseeing the festivities in a purely unofficial capacity.“It’s not at all religious,” the owners repeat, perhaps needlessly, for with the Buddha Bar such a temple to luxury and sensuality, it’s unlikely anyone ever seriously thought it was.No, of course not.That's why there's a vast network of Jesus Joints throughout Christendom and exclusive Mohammedan Mansions in the Middle East. It can only be time before the success of our Buddha Bar encourages their entry into the exclusive enclave of Menteng.Except, Jakarta's Buddha Bar is not a success. Those inveterate French bar-hoppers of Jakarta 100 Bars are not big fans: they think it's "very predictable".And what's in that name?The Indonesian Buddhist Student Association believe it's "sacrilegious".
Association chairman Eko Nugroho said that the new bar and restaurant in Menteng violated laws related to insulting religions and should be shut down.
He said the Jakarta administration should have considered the law regarding the misuse of religious symbols before issuing permits for the restaurant.Of course it should have, but then who are the owners of the Buddha Bar? Why, none other than Renny Sutiyoso, the daughter of current presidential aspirant and former Jakarta governor General (ret) Sutiyoso who authorised the whole deal, and Puan Maharani, the daughter of former president.Megawati, who appointed Sutiyoso to the governorship.The comments on the puff page are worth a lengthy read.Two caught my eye.1. Sutiyoso is still desperately looking for a decent political vehicle to join the presidential race, while (although) Megawati is enjoying high popularity as presidential candidate, (she is) consistently on the second rank below the current president SBY.
It is interesting to know whether both persons would like to risk their candidancies for a 'mere' franchise run by their daughters.
It's a bit late for that. Their names have long been mud down our way.
2. The conceptor of this restaurant really do not understand Buddha teaching which (is) against luxury and any kind of attachment to high life style.
This cruelty to offend Buddhist will give them bad karma by not giving them any luck in this business.
The place will be closed down itself in short time.
I hope so.
Meanwhile, I'll continue to enjoy the short stroll past the glitterati to Ya Udah, just round the corner. We don't go there to be seen but to enjoy the convivial company - who are not posers. So I won't need my platinum card and pearl earrings to gain admittance.
...........................I've been alerted by Anita, a regular reader, that today is International Working Woman's Day. She has sent me this link to a list of the Top 100 Women In History. Obviously it is subjective and I can't say that I approve, not so much with the choices as with the whole notion of 'positive discrimination'.
After all, women have proved they have balls, that is the power to move nations to war, since time immemorial. Think Queens Cleopatra, Boedacia, Elizabeth 1, Victoria, and Margaret Thatcher.
And the women were watching as the men went off to war.
(Song by Anthony Phillips.)
Some years ago, when the Women's Lib movement was burgeoning, I was asked at a job interview for a new NGO involved in housing the homeless how I felt working with someone of the opposite sex. I quipped that as long as they didn't flaunt it around the office, I had no problem. I got the job.
However, I wouldn't want to work for the two bad girls of the Buddha Bar. After all, these two daughters aren't going to feature on anyone's list of influential women. They're merely girls who flaunt their influence.
NB. The pic is of Fiona at the BB.