Friday, January 30, 2009
  John Martyn R.I.P.

I've been listening to his music for nigh on forty years, from his early days as an acoustic singing-songwriting folkie through his more jazzy electric grooving. He pioneered the echoplex which added an individual texture to his well-loved songs. You never quite knew what arrangement he would come up with or how he felt on a particular night, so each listen was a fresh experience. I went to umpteen gigs and always came away invigorated. He could be wistful, angry, in the groove and, at times, downright funny, but always there was his honesty.

He was a "high-profile singer capable of delving deep within myself to make great art. Throughout his life he kept searching for new musical forms in which to express the same essential themes: love, loneliness, and what it means to be alive."

He meant every song he sang .......

A discography, multimedia etc. can be explored here.

Rest In Peace, Mate
John Martyn 11th September 1948 - 29th January 2009



8:30 pm |
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
  The Stench Of Jakarta

It is too apparent that notwithstanding many persons and considerable sums of money are employed for cleansing the streets yet they grow daily more offensive with dust and unwholesome stenches in summer and in wet weather with dirt .... washed into the common [drains] and passages and thence into the [rivers].
- John Lanyan writing in 1654, as quoted in Restoration London by Liza Picard (pub. Phoenix 1997)

Ultra Tupai of the Jakarta Urban Blog has alerted me to a Japanese-language website which pinpoints and describes smells from all over the world, mapping them using Google Maps.

The site's nearly 200 registered users - who self-generate the scent dispatches - have produced smell-o-grams from all over the globe, reporting on spots that smell of "steam coming out of a rice cooker," "used socks in the summer," "toasty odor of cow dung" and "cats with halitosis."

UT asks, "But what about our fragrant chunk of the world?"

To be honest, I am immune. If I want to go somewhere, I don't follow my nose because there is no part of the city which attracts me. I can recall no enticing come hither corner of roasting coffee, but I can think of a few nauseous cosmetic counters in department stores. There are occasional taxis which overpower passengers with sweet and sickly "air fresheners", all the better to disguise the pungency of passing buses belching out black exhaust. Also, as my good friend Del recalls, one of the first things you notice (is) the smell of burning polystyrene boxes and plastic bags.

Whenever I leave the city to head for the hills or pastures new, I am fully alive to the freshness of my surroundings, the cleansing of my lungs. I am also aware of how I switch off my olfactory senses when I return.

Given that I'm not sure about fragrancy, I'll merely comment on the flagrant stench of corruption.

The recent publication by Transparency International of their perception of Indonesia's corruption not surprisingly highlights the police. There are also the usual suspects - the judiciary, the Customs and Excise Office, the Immigration department and sundry bureaucrats, legislators and elected governors. What has surprised many however is that high up in the rankings of low behaviour are those guardians of Muslim behaviour, the National Ulema Council (MUI).

Transparency International reported that 10 percent of their 177 transactions between September and December last year were settled using bribery.

The MUI are upset by this and are threatening to sue TI-Indonesia. Anti-corruption activist Teten Masduki said that their threat to sue would be counterproductive.

“Transparency’s announcement is an index of people’s perception about these institutions, including the council. People think that way because they experience extortion when dealing with these organizations, or hear or know about it from media,” he told the Jakarta Post (which is my main news source here).

“It’s a reflection of people’s feelings and is supposed to be used as feedback to be a better organization. So, rather than laying the blame on someone else for the mistakes, they’d better show that they are willing to change.”

And change they have.

At a special meeting in Padang Panjang, West Sumatra, on Sunday the MUI concluded that smoking was haram for Muslim pregnant women and children, and also haram for Muslim men to smoke in public places.

They also decided that practicing yoga is ok if you don't chant "om", which means 'uncle', and that it's unMuslim to not vote as long as elected leaders meet certain criteria. As these are "being Muslim, honest, brilliant and ready to fight for the people" I think it's fair to predict an unprecedented low voter turnout at polls this year.

Still, at least one thing is clear: if all good Muslims agree to stop smoking in public, then Jakarta's air will be less of a stench.


9:30 am |
Monday, January 26, 2009

A little news item I seem to have overlooked connects up yesterday's post and one I've got lined up for tomorrow.

As much as I like Bukittinggi, I've always been very careful to not complain about the five full on sermons per day from two competing, sonically speaking, mosques which dominate the town centre. One has to respect religious values, but it does seem a shame that religious figures don't respect other cultural norms.

The Bukittinggi municipality ... decided to cover the Jam Gadang (Big Clock) tower at the turn of the new year so people, who usually crowd the city landmark, (wouldn't) celebrate the event there.

"We will drape the Jam Gadang in black, red and yellow cloth so people will not wait for the clock to strike 12:00 on New Year's Day," said municipal spokesman Elvis Sahri Munir.

Elvis cited concerns over public safety and orderly conduct, especially among courting youngsters, as the reason for the move.

"Usually, around 300,000 people gather at the clock every New Year's Eve to witness the clock strike 12, marking the change of year. Youngsters express their happiness by hugging their mates, and even kissing. People from religious circles have criticized these acts because they are against religious and local traditions," Elvis said.

Noted journalist Desi Anwar, whose heritage is Minang, the ethnic group of the area which is culturally matrilinear and presumably diametrically opposed to the paternalism of the West Sumatran government, was most displeased when the blinkered bureaucrats covered up the clock tower last St. Valentine's Day.

As she says, young couples kiss each other whether it's Valentine's Day or not and there is nothing immoral in it especially when they are in love!

And I do wonder what the original Elvis would have made of this ridiculous kerfuffle.


4:35 pm |
Sunday, January 25, 2009

Revisiting 'High Hill' in West Sumatra is always a pleasure, especially after an absence of nigh on five years.

Within half an hour of my arrival, having discovered that my hosts for Xmas were also in town, I was accosted, politely I must say, by a young man who wanted my thoughts "as a tourist" about Bukittinggi.

He was a first year uni. student on assignment "to make his English well". Having corrected the intro at the top of his form and quaffed my first swig of Bintang, I decided that the town's attraction for western tourists is that few concessions are made for them. With its vibrancy as a major market town and distinctive culture it really doesn't need tourist dollars, welcome though they are. It is sufficient unto itself and is, therefore, a comfortable place to be.

We were sat in my favourite haunt, the Bedudal Cafe, a prospective target for the cell of misguided Muslims from Palembang who'd hatched a plan a few months back to plant a bomb there - until they noticed the preponderence of locals who frequent the place. The manager told me how they'd sat, all rigid in their dress code and piously ate to the strains of Bob Marley's hits.

Apart from the absolute imbecility of destroying a local business in the name of their insane god, there would have been a sad futility to the enterprise: there are very few tourists. The last time I was in the Kampung Cina part of the town, there was a choice of watering holes where banana pancakes and other westernised victuals were served along with the Bintangs. There was also a thriving tour and trekking sector. But no more.

Most blame the 30-day visa on arrival. The previous 60-day visa enabled backpackers, generally those curious and energetic university students with long breaks between their course studies, to thoroughly explore the surrounding countryside, worth at least a week's stay in town.

I couldn't track down my old guide, Tonik. Apparently he's taken to hanging out in Panorama Park which overlooks the Sianok Canyon. A coach load of Indonesians were there when I checked. They left traces of their passage with their discarded litter.

Littering is not just a curse bestowed by itinerents. On my way down to the river at the foot of Sianok Canyon, I saw several slides of plastic and other detritus marring the vegetation down the sides of one of Nature's wonders. Over the backyard wall and out of sight seems to be the mindset. Do Indonesians really not care about appearances? I'm with Simon Pitchforth on this one.

As much as I enjoyed my stroll through nature, chatting with the boar hunting owners of snarling dogs, admiring the reliefs of subjugated miners bordering an entrance to the tunnels built for the Japanese invaders, and just chilling with my feet in the river which had, in its coursing through millenia, caused the canyon, I couldn't help but wonder at how out of touch with the elements most of humanity has become.


6:30 am |
Thursday, January 22, 2009
  Dipso Facto

Observers of the Indonesian tourist industry, tourists themselves, local expats and the large number of residents who enjoy imbibing alcohol, and I am one of their number, have been highly critical of the current desperate dearth of legitimate booze because the government has raised the tax on booze by a hefty percentage before reorganising the supply network.

I have recently received an email emanating from the manager of a Jakarta drinking establishment.

Read and despair, or stick to local beers.

The Govt. may drop the 300% extra tax on booze & food when some Westerner dies from drinking bootleg booze, labeled as genuine product, due to bad tourist publicity.

There is a heap of copy booze around now in Jakarta and everywhere. All bars and clubs tell patrons that they cannot guarantee that the booze they sell is genuine. It is sold to us by distributors as the real thing, but bar owner friends of mine have experienced having Jack Daniels that tasted just a “tiny bit funny” but smelt right, etc., etc, but next morning, they were vomiting, with massive headaches, etc., something which had never happened before in years of drinking Jack Daniels.

The big worry is not knowing what chemicals these homemade booze boys put in to make it taste and smell like the real thing! We will never know until some
bule (westerner) dies due to this black market booze that is now estimated to be more than 50% of the liquor sold in Indonesia.

This just goes to show how stupid the Indonesian Govt. is, regardless of who is in power! They put up tax 300%, so every crook in the country starts making bootleg booze, sells it for same price as the real thing so nobody get suspicious; they make a fortune and the Govt. loses out on not only the 300% tax, but the normal duty and tax on wine and spirits, tax from restaurants, bars, clubs, etc., through lost revenue and sales.

It is just lucky the Indo Govt. has 100 feet, because over the past few years, I have seen them shoot themselves in the foot at least 99 other times through their stupidity!!

Enjoy your next drink….whatever it is???? Nobody will ever know…….

And lest you think that this is scaremongering, consider this travel advisory. It may be a couple of years old but is remarkably prescient.


3:30 pm |
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
  Farewell, Tony, and thanks.

I know that this week we are apparently about to realise hopeful times of change - and will you please stop baracking at the back - but the death has been reported of Tony Hart at the age of 83.

Although this is of particular significance to British children, or rather the adults we've become, millions worldwide may not know how much he's influenced them.

You see, way back in the early days of television broadcasting, children were expected to be educated as well as entertained. We weren't subjected to constant advertorial interruptions, nor, therefore, did we have short attention spans which we tried to manage with our remote controls.

Tony was an artist, not one who sold fashionably marinated cows for zillions, but one who enthused generations of children to use the materials to hand such as everyday household items; a plastic washing up liquid bottle could become a space rocket or a lighthouse, a drinking straw could turn that bottle into a paint sprayer useful for silhouettes. You could stick bits of string and other stuff onto scrap paper to make relief pictures.

He encouraged us to use our imaginations, and I for one remain very grateful. In fact, as a qualified primary school teacher, apart from sports I also specialised in art. I suspect that graffiti artist Bankssy was a regular viewer too. And I wonder if community workers liaising with scavenger groups here and elsewhere have felt the ripples of his influence: take note of the numbers of mothers who earn extra cash by sewing discarded tetrapacks into pencil cases and other useful knick-knacks.

And take a long look at the plasticine figure of Morph above, with whom Tony would engage in animated conversation. He (it?) was the progenitor of all the wonderful Aardman films and TV shorts: Wallace and Grommit, Shawn of the Sheep.

Tony was a gentle tutor and he will be fondly remembered for years to come.
In his honour, a petition has been set up to get a room in London's National Gallery set aside to carry on the great man's legacy of educating and inspiring the children of the UK in art and media.


5:00 am |
Monday, January 19, 2009
  It's The Time Of The Season

Stormy weather produces landslides, ships sunk by seasonal 'freak' waves, flooded cities - with extra traffic jams, roof leaks in Jakartass Towers, and the family flu. Aduh.

And time to reflect on time. I hope you've got a moment in your busy schedules to share this rumination. Are you reading this in some down time, a recreational break perhaps, or are you here because you've got nothing better to do? Whatever, please don't feel that you're wasting your time.

We are obsessed with time: from birthdays and festivals to anniversaries - did you know that this year is the 60th Anniversary of Murphy's Law? (I prefer to call it Sod's Law.) My Jakarta version would possibly be: If you have to be somewhere at a certain time, you'll probably be late. Conversely, if you expect jam karet (rubber time) to apply, you'll be much too early.

Such is our obsession with past, present, future and perfect tenses, we end up perfectly tense.

Time Is (Not) On My Side
On holiday and at weekends, I don't wear a watch. Our Kid has not taken his watch off for five years, he proudly says. (I think the battery has been changed a couple of times, though.)

I'll Be With You In An Instant
Instant gratification, instant noodles, pre-digested, labour-saving ... for what? Quality time? Judging by the diminished social, eyeballing contact among Jakarta's nouveau riche as they send instant text messages of little immediate import, I would suggest that time saved could be better spent at a school for etiquette.

But as they could yet be staring at a period of unemployment, they might be better off being castaways learning how to survive without their gadgets and widgets.

I pool my content. Instead of jumping on my phone whenever it beeps, I turned off some of the some of the push features and now access my email, Twitter and Facebook updates whenever I feel like it.

Make no mistake, these devices are very useful when waiting in line (but not at the front of the queue I hope!) or trapped in traffic.

But you should be in charge of your life instead of having a machine control you.
- Vishnu K. Mahmud writing in Jakarta Post about 'Blackberries'.

Why Father Time But Mother Nature?
City Hall, having created a nightmare metropolis with recreational spaces covered over with malls which offer plastic recreational 'facilities' regulated by opening hours, has made further inroads into controlling our biorhythms by attempting to enforce different, and in the case of our children, earlier, school and office hours.

If Indonesia were truly a democracy, politicians could only govern with the electors' consent for specific programmes which have been voted for. Governing by fiat (ford, toyota and kia?) is probably illegal, albeit very macho.

Past Times
Maybe the bad old days were really the good times. Certainly there are millions newly un- or under-employed who'd appreciate a 40 hour week for 40 years.

How we live by time
- Dave Allen

A watch, a clock.
We're brought up to respect the clock, to admire the clock.

We live our life to the clock.
You wake to the clock.
You go to work to the clock.
You clock in to the clock.
You clock out to the clock.
You come home to the clock.
You eat to the clock.
You drink to the clock.
You go to bed to the clock.
You go back to work to the clock.

You do that for forty years of your life.
You retire.
And what do they fucking give you?

A clock!
Having lost track of time, it's time for me to sign off. If you can spare a few minutes, please add to my time table.
'Style', but not content, owes much to Martin Amis' short story The Time Disease in his Einstein's Monsters.


8:00 am |
Saturday, January 17, 2009
  A REALLY Righteous Rant

It doesn't take much to make one realise that there are many greedy uncaring bastards around, folk who seem to be totally unaware that in not recognising that they are part of a living organism - homo sapiens - they are cancerous cells.

That they are prepared to either trample over the rights of others or to simple ignore them leads this scribe to consider advocating major surgery or, at the very least, state controlled chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the focus of this rant has access to these facilities. To put this in plain language, if folk can't give a shit for the rights of others, why should we give a shit for their rights?

I'm not referring to the Muslim majority who deem the one Jewish family of some 26 souls in Surabaya and, indeed, Indonesia, with a population of 240+ million, a danger to our society because half the world away Israel is engaged in barbarous attacks against an enclave of Palestinians who have launched indiscriminate attacks against citizens in the Jewish homeland.

Nor am I referring to rapacious land strippers, corrupt politicians, fraudsters, blinkered bureaucrats and all those who think only of today and their immediate comforts. All these folk are regularly chronicled in the mass media and it all gets tedious reading about yet another example of gross incompetence or greed.

It also gets tedious writing about Abdurizal Bakrie, the current Minister of (his) Family Welfare: his name crops up 80 times in Jakartass, some 5.5% of my posts. However, what I read in the Post last week was totally outrageous.

Thousands of mudflow victims staged a protest in Sidoarjo, East Java, on Wednesday, demanding the government to provide a bailout fund. The fund is meant for the compensation owed them for their assets damaged in the Lapindo mudflow disaster.

The protesters left their temporary shelters at Porong Baru Market in Porong district, carrying banners and handing out pamphlets as they moved in a long convoy of trucks, pickup trucks and motorcycles. Sporting a police escort, they made their way to a gathering of legislative and independent presidential candidates at Delta Sports Stadium in Sidoarjo.

"We are demanding the government provide a bailout fund to pay the mudflow victims their compensation, because Lapindo Brantas Inc. is facing financial difficulties paying its dues to the victims," said rally coordinator Suwito, referring to the gas exploration company widely considered responsible for the disaster.

Lapindo has suspended paying the remaining 80 percent of compensation as required by the Presidential Decree No. 14/2007 on the compensation scheme and resettlement, blaming the global economic downturn that has adversely affected parent company Bakrie & Brothers Holding Group in the capital market.

Earlier this year, the Post published an article entitled History, Politics and the Bakrie Family in which Fachry Ali suggests that "as a business group, the Bakries (have) managed to set an interesting example in breaking three centuries of history marked by a pattern of unfavorable conditions for local entrepreneurs."

That's as maybe, but there is the little matter of business ethics to consider.

Another story that emerged in the Post's business pages was the seeming lack of transparency in the dealings of PT Bumi Resources, the Bakrie family’s most prized firm.

The company has paid Rp.492 billion (US$44.2 million) as an up front payment to acquire publicly listed PT Darma Henwa, PT Fajar Bumi Sakti and PT Pendopo Energi Batubara - valued together in total at Rp.6.1 trillion. The three companies are engaged in coal businesses.

If the Bakries can find $44.2 million, surely they could have spared the Rp.7.5 billion ($675,900) the Sidoarjo victims, some 8,000 families, need to build new homes in a nearby location?

This time there can be no excuse.


1:00 pm |
Thursday, January 15, 2009
  Jakartass Goes Global

Of course, all websites, including blogs, are global in potential reach - unless they're blocked by hypersensitive national political powers. My Clustr Map was archived at the end of last year, and what you see to the right is for just 2009.

I do know that many Blogspot sites are blocked by companies and institutes here in Jakarta, but no matter as you can always find a proxy if you're desperate to read our musings.

Anyway, I was intrigued to receive an invitation "to have the most recent post of Jakartass included on the Indonesia page of GlobalPost.com as part of their 'Global Blogs' service.

"After reviewing thousands of blogs worldwide, we have found Jakartass to be one that is thought provoking and gives readers a true sense of what life is really like in Indonesia."

As far as I can tell, Global Post is an online newspaper because they have presumably paid correspondents in many countries. Indonesia's is Peter Gelling. Underneath his articles, there is a section for we bloggers. The first few lines of our most recent post are given with a 'Read more ...' link, and a further link to our main sites.

Note that I say "our". That's because other invitees who accepted, who were presumably as flattered with compliments as I was, are currently Therry and Isman from Bandung who is nobody's "Fool", and started blogging way before most of us in the Indonesian blogosphere.

What I like about Global Post is the notion of combining the talents of reporters with opinionated observers. If we were to combine our talents around a specific incident or issue, we would both be better informed.

And so would you.
This a gratuitous advertorial. No fee has been charged or paid.


6:00 pm |
Sunday, January 11, 2009
  Thinking Outside The Indonesian Box - 2009

A year ago I invited readers of Jakartass to uphold SBY's dictum to "Think Outside The Box". However, whereas he was then extorting the world's leaders to reach a consensus regarding the Bali round of Climate Change Conferences, I suggested that folk in greenhouses shouldn't throw stones and perhaps local politicians should be admonished for their myopic visions.

A number of fine essays were contributed to Thoughts Outside the Indonesian Box (TOIB) and received general acclaim worldwide, particularly those which were concerned with Education.

This year will see at least two rounds of national elections: for the President who, with his/her government, will determine the country's direction, and the national legislature which may or may not ensure that government programmes and policies are adopted. Independent observers tend to be cynical as the legislators seemingly follow their own agendas such as seeking financial 'rewards' for granting infrastructure projects which invariably cause environmental destruction. They also appear to kowtow to Islamic groups, presumably because they are a sizeable proportion of the electorate, and prioritise non-essential and sectarian issues such as an anti-pornography law.

This most recent parliamentary session has seen a slew of politicians, both national and local, bureaucrats and other public servants, such as ambassadors and government ministers (both current and former), and from such institutions as Bank Indonesia and the Attorney General's office, face allegations of corruption. Many have been imprisoned - for which I believe SBY deserves much praise for allowing their prosecution and not interfering in the due process of the law.

The next round of elections will see some changes. The current House of 'Representatives' consists of handpicked cadres ranked according to their fundraising power by the political parties. Because electors voted for particular parties, who were allocated seats according to the number of votes cast for the party, rather than directly voting for particular candidates, this has ensured that the entrenched Suhartoist elite have clung on to their vestiges of power.

It has also lead to an incredible proliferation of political parties - 38 for Indonesia as a whole and four for the semi-autonomous region of Aceh (this list needs amending) - established by politicians who have slipped down the pecking order of more established parties and are therefore fearful for their sinecures. Of course, there may well be one or two which have been established for purely altruistic reasons, but I don’t intend to examine each and every manifesto, assuming they yet exist, because there’s virtually zero chance of true independents getting within sniffing distance of a seat.

And therein lies the problem.

Although the Constitutional Court has ruled that candidates receiving the most votes should represent their parties, only candidates from those parties receiving more than 2.5% of the national vote will be allowed to take their seats, thus ensuring that the same old, same old parties, and the splinters thereof, are likely to grasp power.

There are few electors who can differentiate between the parties other than perhaps those which are pluralistic and those which promote religious values. Most parties, if not all, rely on personalities, recognisable from news media or popular entertainments.

To put it simplistically, who is Indonesia’s Obama Barack? Where is the promise of sound leadership for all Indonesians? Who has a manifesto with a clear vision offering security, welfare, reassurance and, above all, hope for future generations?

"Leaders with statesmanship should (must?) prepare a strong foundation for their successors. By contrast, most politicians merely lay traps to hold citizens hostage by making them dependent on the ruling regime."
- P.Agung Pambudhi. Executive Director. Regional Autonomy Monitoring Ctte. (KPPOD)

As Jakartass, I am once again asking folk to join in a group writing exercise. Can we offer the manifestos which are - ahem - manifestly missing? Judging from last year’s contributions, this should not be a task beyond our capabilities.

As before, TOIB will host the contributions, with links from my blog and hopefully yours too.

Who can contribute?
Anyone who has the best interests of Indonesia and its multifarious folk at heart.

Writing what?
Just think outside the box about how Indonesia could be a better place for all if visionaries of an ecumenical persuasion were able to promote their manifestos.

Please email me with your suggestions, questions and, hopefully, draft contributions. I'll then reply with formatting information.

Deadline: February 13th (which is coincidentally my birthday).

Possible topics/titles.

-- Green architecture.
-- Leftovers are all right.
-- Your country needs YOU.
-- Indonesia - a model democracy?
-- Now, why didn't they think of that?
-- A healthy nation is a wealthy nation.
-- How religions can help offset climate change.
-- The world I'd like your grandchildren to live in.
-- Assessing the education of the education assessors.
-- What if the State paid everyone a basic 'social allowance'?

Writing style?
From academic to argumentative, from serious to satirical, from readable to risible ~ whatever you're comfortable with.

I'll send formatting guidelines later to all prospective contributors.

Small Print
I reserve editorial rights, although these would only be exercised with your approval.



6:00 am |
Friday, January 09, 2009

There are some who think that I'm a Luddite. For example, 'Er Indoors bought herself a fancy handphone for her birthday (with the cash I gave her, incidentally), but I still don't want one. Does she really need a camera, video cam, games, music player and all the other gadgets and widgets which can only go wrong?

The simple answer is 'no' because she has to wait for Our Kid to come home so he can switch it on.

And if I had something so complicated and unnecessary, so would I.

(But I do have a camera, albeit without a phone, as can be seen here.)

So, I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that some my quotations are nigh on two centuries old, viz. William Hazlitt, who some consider to be the first 'modern man'.

And if he's modern, even though he's been dead for 170 years, then so am I.

So there .....


6:00 pm |
Tuesday, January 06, 2009

It's always nice to be liked and I've noted that this blog has a few 'followers'. I won't name and shame them - apart from Hilmy to be found at "kappa-lamda-tau, beta-delta-gamma, Indonesia". An Indonesian, she has a blog with yellow door knobs on, much of which is written in incredibly good English, as befits the ITB Students English Forum.

There is a widget to display all my 'fans', but I'd have to upgrade my template and lose various features, and redo my blogroll, and it's all a bit late for that. When I started Jakartass, there weren't tags. Also, if I used the Title Box in the dashboard, it came out smaller than the text. So, you and I are stuck with what you see. And I quite like it anyway - but only in Firefox. Please note that only seven posts are on one page, that my pictures are small and merely an illustration, so that those of us without access to super-duper telecommunications, such as half the population of the USA and eighty percent of Indonesians, should find Jakartass easier to download and view.

Mind you, as Diamond Geezer says, “Bloggers used to link to one another far more frequently and now they don't. They generate their own content, or they link to big news stories, or they rant about perceived political idiocy, or they recycle press releases, or they post pictures of their kittens, or else they've buggered off to Facebook. Blogging's now part of a wider aggregated social network, which makes blogs themselves increasingly isolated. To be honest it's a wonder anybody gets any visitors via anybody else any more.”

Of course, if you're one of the hundred or so subscribers who read my ramblings via email, then many thanks. But then you don't get the comments which are hosted by Haloscan. Apparently there are some changes being made to their service and you might be able to subscribe to it.

Occasionally I get notification of the cancellation of a subscription. If you do decide that there's more important stuff to read, please drop me a line giving your reason(s).

e.g. "There's more important stuff to read."

As with all bloggers, columnists and most(?) journalists, I write about what interests me. It's a big wide and fascinating world out there.

Greed, corruption, environmental destruction, religious separatism, politics, consumerism, wars .... these, and more, are the unfortunate hallmarks of humanity. All I can do is chronicle this (sheep-like) path in the hope that a later archeologist - a descendant? - will know that this ancestor, in spite of his cynicism, remained an unashamed optimist.

Even though it's bloody hard at times.

And saying that, don’t expect many posts, if any, over the next week or so as my computer has gone to my service shop for a major overhaul/upgrade.

Ho hum.

However, I do have some fairly interesting news for once I get everything back to as near hunky-dory as I've had it before - including a syndication deal which looks rather interesting.

Watch this hyperspace ....


5:30 am |
Sunday, January 04, 2009
  A Brain Wash

I sit back against the bamboo wall of the shelter. That's enough exercise for one day. I'm master of all I survey. This isn't much, but I've hacked a few pathways and several gaps in the fence have been plugged and another opened in the hopes that passing fruit gatherers, who are more than welcome, will smooth areas of undergrowth I didn't reach.

I quietly watch bursts of sunlight highlight and bring into focus the individual plants rising bedraggled above the dense carpet of grasses, creepers and ferns which still threaten to overwhelm the chocolate and coffee trees which were once bushes, the two tall durian trees, the proud lone coconut palm, and the solitary banana stump.

It seems silent being alone, but as I listen to my body rhythms I hear leaves rustle in the breeze and rattle in the gusts. Bugs and butterflies, double-winged velvety blue, mellow yellow, ride the breezes and add their ambient background buzz to the whistles and warbles, chirrups, cheeps and chirps of unseen birds, some passing by, others claiming territorial rights in the neighbouring forest.

Then, operating on their time, the simulang (yellow-fronted gibbons) claim their patch of nearby forest and get down to a parley which echoes around the surrounding mountain ridges. What this means, I can only guess at. There is a call and response pattern, with a chorus of higher toned females(?) echoed by a solo voice, a bass an octave lower. I wonder at first if I'm listening to a harem paying court. I doubt that the troop is proclaiming territorial rights because this is a scheduled performance, early morning, mid-morning and towards sunset.

Today this seems to be a more serious gathering as another voice is heard. The Reichian* repetitive sound swellings and fadings, underpinned by the lone bass who is, as usual, not quite in synch, is interrupted by another voice, a higher one. I surmise that a complaint is being made and the troop responds: the complainant mocks their opinions.

The bass leads more, and the troop give answer. They move along the ridge and I continue to listen as they complete their full agenda of monkey business and wander out of earshot.

The virtual silence is interrupted by a distant circular saw and is that a shotgun I hear? Seeking what I can only guess - a boar, a miniature deer? My stomach gurgles and I come to.

As I put on my sandals I notice a leech, replete, on my left foot. I recall that yesterday Our Kid asked me, "Have you ever seen a leech, Dad?"

I stroll back barefoot, smiling, to show him.

I am thoroughly a-mused today.
This one's for Paul and Butet.

*Steve Reich was/is the pioneer of "Systems Music", a term which has been used to describe sound continuums which evolve gradually, often over very long periods of time. The most striking feature ... is repetitiveness or stasis. There is little or no variation of pitch, tempo, dynamics or timbre.

Interestingly, in the early 70's, Steve Reich studied Balinese music. It is easy, therefore, to make the connective assumption that much non-Western music draws its inspiration from the sounds of the living environment, and is a homage to Mother Nature herself.



6:30 am |
Thursday, January 01, 2009



10:27 am |
  New Year Resolutions - 2009

This is traditionally the time of the year when western folk resolve to make life-changing decisions, such as to quit smoking. For the majority of Indonesians, the day that closes the fasting month of Ramadhan, Idul Fitri, is the moment. However, I've always felt that there is a certain amount of hypocrisy in assuming that one specific day of atonement and resolution is sufficient. Every day is important.

Several years ago, an Australian colleague, now back in Oz with his Indonesian wife and children, told of his brother visiting at Idul Fitri. Slim had lent him a substantial amount of rupiah. Brother-in-law gave the familiar greeting: Mohon ma'af lahir dan batin. This roughly translates as 'Please forgive my faults and mistakes since the last Idul Fitri, and those I will commit before the next'.

Slim was never repaid.

Certain decisions do need great resolve, such as giving up smoking. I used to say that giving up smoking was easy - I did it every night. Seriously, overcoming an addiction or bad habit may need the continued support of someone close. One year, the mother of Son No.1 and I did give up the evil weed; I managed about six months, until one day, going through my spouse's pockets as one does - I was looking for a coin to feed the electricity meter - I found an open packet of Polo mints.

I knew that these were a shield against the tell-tale smoky breath smell, so, sod it, i gave in to yet another period of nicotine intake.

Anyway, as I'm now perfect, this year there isn't a need for me to change my behaviour. 'Er Indoors does tell me that I shouldn't be grouchy or ever shout, but if there were an abeyance in annoyances caused by others, then life would be better for all of us.

So, if you're guilty of any of the following, please agree to desist.

Wasting the time of others

I get regular calls from the telemarketeers of Telkom, offering their Speedy service. I'm given to understand that this would split our phone line so that 'Er Indoors can gossip to her heart's content whilst I surf the internet. Naturally, I wouldn't make a financial commitment over the phone and wanted to think about buying in to this 'service', so three times I've requested a brochure, to be sent by snail mail or email - if the size is sufficiently small to be downloaded.

Not unexpectedly, I've yet to receive anything from them. A couple of weeks ago they agreed to a Saturday visit to Jakartass Towers. I stayed in, but they stayed away.

Other time wasters include:
- The customer in the supermarket queue to whom it comes as a surprise that they have to pay, and spends 10 minutes looking for their purse or wallet.
- Bus drivers who wait for an interminable amount of time for more passengers to clamber into their sweat box. Not only does this cause extra traffic congestion on the outside and heat stroke inside, but generally few actually board.

Breaches of handphone etiquette

- Standing at the front of a queue and holding a loud conversation rather than finishing the task already started, such as walking off with one's paid for groceries.
- Starting a seemingly lengthy one-sided conversation instead of completing a face-to-face discourse. This is so sombong. (I can't use the Anglo-Saxon words I'd prefer in this family-orientated blog.)
- Standing still whilst having a conversation, thus blocking the sidewalk, aisle, escalator, stairwell, corridor or passageway for all other users.
- Shouting ~ I really couldn't give a shit about your meaningless trivialities so lose your phone and get a life.

Playing loud music

- Don't park your SUV outside my house with your a/c running and your drum'n'bass 'muzak' thumping. Or I'll come out, thump you and send you running.
- Hey neighbours. Sorry, I really don't like dangdut music. Especially at 12 midnight and 5 in the morning.

I'm not trying to change your abysmal taste in music, but do you think you could plug headphones into your bionic ears? Thanks.

Blocking the sidwalks

- It's probably unfair to blame the sidwalk vendors who are trying to earn enough to survive the day. But I do think they could position themselves more politely.
- I do, however, hate - with a vengeance - motorcyclists who insist on driving along the few passable bits of sidewalk. I will continue to bar their way and ram my trusty brolly through the spokes of their wheels.

It seems that the only walking spaces in Jakarta are in the road. And they're gridlocked.

My One Resolution

I will continue to prod the powers-that-be to live up to their responsibilities towards society as a whole.

Needs must - Greed mustn't.
Oh, and I nearly forgot. I wish you the New Year you would wish for yourselves - and others.


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