I wrote the following ten years ago today.
Diaries are strange. Personal yet public. Did Pepys write his because he was forgetful or because he knew that he was living in interesting times? Is it a quest for immortality or a search for personality? And why am I asking these questions?
This is my first attempt at a blog so I’ve a steep learning curve. My words can be found on the Net and I’ll feed those links in when I feel like it, but meantime I’d better work out what I’ve got to work out.
First off, I’m a Londoner now living in Jakarta ~ and we’re living in interesting times. There’s an election on which is adding to the traffic chaos but little to expectations of an improvement in living conditions.
Now, ten years later, although I have posted some 2,200 articles here, some long, many short. I have few answers, because plus ca change, c’est toujours la même chose … it’s more of the same old, same old. For a start, there’s an election on with many of the same old faces clinging on to their shrinking power bases.
I started out with the intent of continuing the previously handwritten chronicles of my journey through life as I figured that my family and friends ‘back home’ might be interested in my goings on. A blog could be more convenient than trekking to my local post office with my latest screed and wondering whether it would arrive (or whether the stamps would be peeled off and resold with my despatch discarded.). As it transpired, only Son No.1 in London was, and still is, an active internet user and erstwhile friends have disappeared off my radar. (Not that I think they’ve been hijacked.)
However, they’ve been more than adequately replaced with other online ‘friends’, many of whom are more valued for subsequent face-to-face sometimes Bintang-fueled encounters. It’s these friends and others in our networks who offer an understanding of our lives here. We (generally) western caucasians will never be fully assimilated, especially someone my height – not that I’m tall, of course, but Indonesians are generally short.
What has been most gratifying however is that my writing has been appreciatedenough to have resulted in the publication of articles in the main English-language media, the Jakarta Post, the Jakarta Globe and Tempo magazine. You’ll be lucky to find my writing in either the Post or Tempo because the former doesn’t have a search facility and it’s possible that my Tempo book reviews have only appeared in the printed magazines. But, no worries, they’re all somewhere here, as are the many articles I’ve had published in the Indonesia Expat (né Jakarta – Bali) free fortnightly magazine.
Then there’s the generally well-received book about living in Jakarta, “a MUST READ” it says here. With Jokowi about to step up, it’s time for a third edition methinks, but I can’t get a reply out of the publishers. And that deserves a ‘ho hum’. These are an expression of resignation, a mere shrug of the shoulders. What I’ve also chronicled are ‘wtf moments’, the metal blinks which leave you with a blank mind and mouth agape. These, a friend suggested, are delivered on a daily basis.
Regular readers will know to expect the unexpected: politics, education, transport, personal, ‘green‘, music and book reviews, interviews, profiles, obits, language, images, Jakarta … whatever takes my fancy or gets me riled, but viewed from my windowless den in Jakartass Towers 1 and, from a year ago, 2.
The internet has changed in the 16 years since I first hooked up. Remember the sound of dial-up modems? If anyone else wanted to use the phone, I had to disconnect; it was to be a few years before anyone had a handphone. And when they did come, folk would have very loud conversations on them, often at the top (or bottom) of escalators, as if to prove that they were the top (or bottom) banana. If in a mall, I’d walk along with both hands held to my ears while proclaiming that, look, I’d got two hand-phones.
For a while I used a USB dongle and my phone bill dropped drastically. But just over a year ago we had to move. We didn’t moved far, just eight houses down the road, the operative word being ‘down’ because the signal didn’t reach us. But lo, after umpteen years of complaining, we were able to get connected to a fibre-optic network and finally got to watch and link to some YouTubes. Of course, being a cheapskate I opted for the cheapest package, the ‘Safe Kids’ one.
This means that the provider won’t allow me to access any pornographic sites such as Middlesex University, although Scunthorpe slips past their beady eyes. Mind you, why on earth Jazz Pianists Expedition should be blocked is beyond my comprehension. Jazz Boot Experiment isn’t! Perhaps the Evil Eyes prefer K-Pop.
Blogging as a medium has changed, probably due to the rise of other ‘sosial media’ such as Mugshots and Twits. I regularly go through my blogroll and remove the blogs I used to read regularly but which haven’t been updated for a year. Apart from London’s Diamond Geezer, mine is the oldest you’ll find here. Until the end of 2009, I used Blogger, but after being taken over by Google, it became more cumbersome and valued comments were truncated. So I switched to WordPress having taken a domain name. If anyone clicks on a link to the old blog they automatically get transferred to here, so my pearls remain online.
As can be seen in this screengrab, Jakartass became the target of spammers so I switched to moderating all feedback. I don’t know if any ‘genuine’ comments have been blocked because of this but if so, please email me.
Regular readers may have noticed that my posts are becoming less frequent. This is partly because of other commitments such as commissions, but the rapid expansion of the web and its virtual overload of instant info, coupled with the rise in mobile gadgets and social media such as Mugshots and Twits has meant that my readership has sunk to less than half of my top average of 200 visitors per day. It’s much easier to leave drips of info rather than the dollops I deposit here.
fr. Jakarta Post
And so I come to the end, perhaps not of Jakartass, but of a whole decade devoted to it. I’m still engaged with the big wide world outside Jakartass Towers Redux. I’m working on typing up my handwritten travel dairies, a slow process, but you can read them here. I can also be found lurking on my FaceBook page where not only do I provide links to here but also post snippets of whatever interests me that day.
Stay with me while you can because one day I hope to retreat to greener pastures and paint my dreams in more colours than you’ll see here.