Image of the Week – 151 (Mont St. Michel)

Click here for  LARGE image.

A ‘supertide’ last Saturday (21st) briefly turned France’s famed Mont Saint-Michel into an island, delighting thousands of visitors who came to see the rare phenomenon.

The so-called “tide of the century”, which actually happens every 18 years, raises sea levels along the northern French coast, but is especially dramatic at the UNESCO world heritage site that is normally linked to the mainland by a narrow causeway at high tide.

The peak of the supertide on Saturday morning, said to have risen at the pace of a horse’s gallop, turned the outcrop briefly into an island, while the day’s low tide allowed people to walk on the expansive flat seabed once again.

On Visiting Singapore For The First Time

With the death of Lee Kuan Yew yesterday, my thoughts turned to the many visits I’ve made to Singapore. The city has changed since my first visit nigh on thirty years ago, and in one very important respect: it is a city to walk in. The following is from the handwritten travel diary I kept for my year of backpacking and which I’ve now posted online.

Bencoolen Street Apartments
Friday 8th November 1985

Singapore is a business city – big business. For me, the purchase of a recording Walkman, telephoto lens and attempting to reschedule my round-the-world ticket is big business.

I have seen little to make me a tourist. Before I finally leave, perhaps on my return, I will have a gin sling at Raffles Hotel. I may not like it, the drink or the experience, but as with viewing the Taj Mahal, an Englishman must relive part of his colonial past. It’s all in my genes – which reminds me to dress up, whenever.

Meantimes, high living is restricted to high rises; condominiums. hotels, shopping centres and car parks. Everything planned, but not by, or seemingly for, the people.

Although buses are frequent and generally with seats available, a mass rapid transit system, a train network, is under construction. Somehow I doubt that the roads will be emptier of traffic. Such measures as a surcharge on cars, including taxis, which carry fewer than four people during business hours in the business sector may well have diminished the volume of Japanese technology going from A to B. Still doesn’t make it easier to be a pedestrian though. Parking on yellow lines, storm drains and the lack of sidewalks mitigates against us.

Which is a shame. Trying to visit a streetside business – tailor, café or bookshop – becomes an Indiana Jones expedition. Whereas in India a similar exercise involves avoiding people, the danger here is being avoided by the traffic. With penalties of S$500 (then c.£166) for jaywalking everyone gets channelled into multi-storey shopping centres, which the dispossessed small traders can ill-afford to move into. Small businessmen become small employees and this mitigates against choice and creativity.

Everything is organised and channelled. Where patterns of behaviour run counter to the planners’ conceptions, the penalties are either severe, including behaviour modification and the death penalty, or new plans are formulated. A bureaucrat’s delight; social planners are rarely socially beneficial, except on their terms.

Food is artificially pure, transnationals sell identical units and concepts to citizens a thousand miles apart. Travel is easy. Computerisation smooths transactions and my Mastercard is valid everywhere.

Tomorrow is here today. ‘TOTAL DEFENCE – PSYCHOLOGICAL, SOCIAL, MILITARY, ECONOMICAL and CIVIL’ is a bus hoarding. At the foot of the glass and concrete banks lies a layer of cardboard boxes advertising Sony and Nipponese. Beds for those the system forgot. The penalty for littering is $500. When the litter is literally your litter (excuse the alliteration) the penalty could be jail if you cannot pay the fine. That means a bed.

And that’s fine.
Anal footnotes:
- Catch a bumboat to Sentosa Island
- T-shirt: Kickapoo – Joy Juice
————It’s Out Of This World

Image of the Week – 150 (Too Horrible For Words)

Some say that these are huts in Oregon, USA, in which calves are kept for 6 weeks or months until they are slaughtered for veal.

Others say that these are the back views and in front are pens where calves are free to romp and play.

Some say that these are huts in which calves are kept and fed with milk before beco9ming milking cows. They don’t say what happens to the male calves.

Some say that calves are separated from their mothers so that humans can drink the mothers’ milk.

Some say this image is photoshopped.

I say that keeping meat sources in ‘cages’, fattening them with genetically modified ‘food’ in order to fatten humans is doubly cruel.

I say that industrial farming is contributing to global warming and climate change: think of the tonnage of the methane gas belched and farted by the animals kept in solitary confinement.

I say that I should have said nothing … that image is too horrible for words.

Image of the Week -149 (Monlam)

©Kevin Frayer – Getty Images

The main purpose of Monlam, the Great Prayer Festival, is to pray for the long life of all the holy Gurus of all traditions, for the survival and spreading of the Dharma in the minds of all sentient beings, and for world peace. The communal prayers, offered with strong faith and devotion, help to overcome obstacles to peace and generate conducive conditions for everyone to live in harmony.

I can but agree with that. Thirty years ago I spent two and a half months in Ladakh, the northern-most part of India in the Himalayas, an area predominantly Tibetan Buddhist. This was a profoundly important part of my life, one I would love to relive yet I know that, apart from the risk of altitude sickness after a lifetime addicted to nicotine, there’s no way that I could do more than observe as I did then.

Images such as the one above will have to be enough.
My image is taken from a short photo essay published in the Guardian.
My Ladakh Diary can be downloaded from here.

‘Are some Indonesians Stupid?’ Revisited

Since I first asked that question four and a half years ago, the post has been viewed several times a week.

There are remarkable parallels so I haven’t had to make many alterations to it: new links are this colour, and old ones are this.

In the immortal words of Kurt Vonnegut, “so it goes…”

The police guard the KPK against the police.

My definition of ‘stupidity’ is a conscious act with unfortunate, even disastrous, results due to a lack of forethought about possible consequences.

In the spotlight today are the police who, in spite of their ‘intelligence’ successes in capturing loads of motor cycle thieves, seem to have little regard for the public perception of their daily behaviour.

Firstly, they do not demonstrate that they have embraced reformasi, the drive for transparency and accountability which are evidence of a democratic nation.

The law on mass organisations has an article which states that the government may freeze a mass organization’s administration if it is found to have disrupted safety and/or public order. Yet the police stand by whilst the thugs of Front Pembela Islam (FPI) attack bars and churches, disrupt licensed meetings of gays and transexuals, and, just last week, parliamentarians and constituents discussing free health care for pensioners.

The list goes on

Mur­hali Barda, head of the Bekasi chapter of FPI, claimed that a certain Christian foundation had been relentlessly baptizing groups of people in the city.

“A number of buses were seen dropping off people, some wearing jilbabs, at a house in Kemang Pratama district in Bekasi. When our people interrogated the security guard, he said they were there to be baptised.”

However, Bekasi Police Chief Sr. Comr Imam Sugianto denied there had been a mass baptism: “All of them were students and they all went there for a swim.”

If true, then I’m justified in saying that the FPI thugs are stupid.

And the police?

There can be few citizens or residents who have not given the police ‘cigarette money’ at some time to avoid further unpleasantness, which may include torture. This was alleged by the cleaners imprisoned for sexually assaulting a kindergarten pupil at the Jakarta International School (JIS) . The public has not been fooled by this gross miscarriage of justice.

Victims usually do not know where to report abuses and are vulnerable to further abuse if they make a complaint directly to the police.

But it’s not so much the lower echelons who are in the news now as the police generals. Questions are being aired as to how six top officers – Inspector General Mathius Salempang, Inspector General Sylvanus Yulian Wenas, Inspector General Budi Gunawan, Inspector General Badrodin Haiti, Inspector General Bambang Suparno, and whistleblower of the tax scam Commissioner General Susno Duadji – can amass from Rp.22 billion to as much as Rp.95 billion) on a salary of Rp.15 million a month (c.$1,600).

This is the lead story in this week’s Tempo magazine. Strangely, all of the 30,000 print run was bought up in the early hours by “a group of mystery men” before it could be distributed. Tempo reprinted the issue, and are presumably happy with their increased circulation.

What is even stranger is not that the police are upset with the story, but the cover.

Whoops, wrong one!

This one. 

The problem with the cover is that it shows a police general with three piggy banks on leashes which is an allusion to the business interests who buy favours. Mind you, having piggy banks with the police on a leash would seem more apt.

However, it’s the pigs which have – erm – unleashed the police anger, so much so that they are talking up a possible lawsuit against Tempo.*

National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Edward Aritonang claimed he had received many complaints about the magazine’s cover.

He said, “Imagine, we have 406,000 officers nationwide, and they and probably their relatives, too, are offended because it compares the police to the animal.”

To disrespect police in the UK who are apparently disrespecting citizens is to call them ‘pigs’, but here the word has deeper, Islamic, connotations. However, apart from the fact that the cartoon doesn’t compare the police to pigs, Gen, Antonanng doesn’t seem to be that well-educated.

As Tempo magazine chief editor Wahyu Muryadi said, “The piggy banks represent bank accounts, the edition’s theme. Why pig? In Indonesian, a pot for saving money is traditionally called celengan, which means piggy bank. It derives from the word celeng, which means pig.”

I wonder what Gen. Antonand made of the reprint of the magazine which sported this cover.

in a poke?

Pig in a poke is an English idiom which refers to a confidence trick originating in the 15th/16th centuries, when meat was scarce but cats were not and were put inside the ‘poke’.

Note: ‘Poke’, originally meant bag or sack. ‘Pocket’ is the current form of the word.
The Indonesian equivalent expression is kucing dalam karung (cat in a sack).

Make of this farce what you will, but my answer to my title is once again a resounding ‘yes’.

The police are once again trying to clamp down on press freedom by accusing Tempo of defamation in disclosing ‘secret banking information’ relating to the wealth of the then Inspector General but now Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan. He is now waging war against the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) who named him a suspect shortly after Jokowi named him as the sole nominee for police chief,

He has since been dropped, yet has still been able to pack the police higher echelons with his nominees.

W’aduh, this is all so Ruritanian.
* Update 12th March fr. the Jakarta Post

The NGO behind the filing of a police report against Tempo weekly for its coverage of Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan’s bank accounts has been exposed as a pay-for-hire band of bullies, and many suspect the group is likely being used by others to intimidate and exert pressure on the magazine.

Image of the Week – 148 (Jazz)

Sri Hanuraga & Dominik Bukowski at Java Jazz last Friday.

Due to a set of circumstances, I’m not able to get to this year’s Java Jazz Festival which ends tonight. Friday would have been my preferred evening, with some ‘not-to-be-missed’ groups on my list. One such would have been the Dominik Bukowski Group from Poland, with the extremely talented pianist Sri ‘Aga’ Hanuraga.

The image above encapsulates everything I like about jazz: Aga and Dominik are in total empathetic synchronicity, a joyous time to be shared by audiences.

Sadly I also missed friend Riza Arshad’s simakDialog who played a slimmed down acoustic set. And I’d have loved to have seen Ligro* again, with Agam Hamzah (gtr), Gusti Hendy (drums) and the ubiquitous bassist Adi Darmawan. Apparently they “served thrilling high-octane action like riding a dare-devil roller coaster ride” – as they always do!

Adi also played as part of Gilang Ramadhan’s Komodo Project with Ivan Nestor as guitarist and vocalist, and ‘senior’ guitarist Donny Suhendra (ex-Krakatau and Java Jive).

*Watch out for Ligro’s soon to be released Dictionary 3. From what I’ve heard live, it will certainly match Dictionary 2 from a couple of years ago.

Image of the Week – 147 (Statues)

Although this photo was taken two or three weeks ago during Jakarta’s most recent floods, I saved it for now because a. I like it and b. it sums up last week for me.

There’s a glimmer of hope that things are about to happen after a long period of going nowhere fast.

And this is a message for those in the know: Hapus Dydd Gwyl Dewi.

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