Showing posts from 2013

Lessons of history

As Joshua Oppenheimer's brilliant "The Act of Killing" has made its way around the world the past year or so, it has drawn to public attention the gruesomeness of the massacres of mid-1960s Indonesia. The depictions of the horrific ways in which street gangs were able to to lynch those suspected of leftist political leanings, those of Chinese heritage and anyone else with whom the thugs wished to settle scores presented in unflinching terms the terror of the early days of Suharto's New Order era. Clearly the film is a damning indictment of that dark chapter in Indonesian history, in which a million or more people were killed. But it also serves as a savage condemnation of contemporary Indonesia and the warped values that have become entrenched in the popular consciousness. Consider the fact that the perpetrators of the crimes in Oppenheimer's film can hold their heads high and be feted on TV talk shows as they recount their past actions, while the victims (an

The quandary of animal sacrifice

On Tuesday I went for a wander through the knot of small streets behind my apartment complex in inner Jakarta. In a laneway typically occupied by bakso sellers and old people smoking kretek there was an enthusiastic crowd of men in blood-splattered T-shirts methodically carving up the carcass of a bull they'd recently slaughtered. A crowd of kids were gathered around, boys with crew cuts and girls in fine dresses, staring at the men as they got to work. That's how Idul Adha 1434 was marked by the congregants at the Jami' Al-Ikhlas mosque in Setiabudi, and it pretty much reflects what happens in thousands of mosques across Indonesia and much of the Muslim world. Idul Adha is the festival of the sacrifice , honouring the story of prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) offering to kill his son Ismail (Ishmael) as a sign of his submission to God's command, before God offered Abraham a lamb to sacrifice instead. In many developed countries the slaughtering of an animal (usually a lamb,

Q! Film Fest, fighting forces of darkness since 2002

For the past two weeks I've had the joy of seeing about a dozen films, feature length and short, at Jakarta's Q! Film Festival. So frequent was my presence at screenings around town that I think I may have earned the label "The Festival Bule" among some of the other regulars. No, I'm not gay nor in any of the other categories that the Q! festival focuses on (lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex), but I have long recognised that some of the best creative works come from people who are. It's also a worthwhile psychological experience to be around people looking at me and wondering quietly to themselves, "Do you think he's gay?" Q! Film Festival flies the flag for creative and cosmopolitan Indonesia. It hasn't always been easy. A few years ago, the event, which is now in its 12th year, was hit by protests from some dark forces cloaking themselves in religion in their attempts to shut it down. Fears of violence and intimidation have forc

Future plans

After more than two fantastic years at the Jakarta Globe, I'm moving on to other things. It was a great privilege to work with such an exciting group of journalists from around the world in the newsroom - we had a great core of talented and enthusiastic reporters, editors, designers and photographers from Indonesia, complemented by some ambitious young foreign staff. Like in any job there were some frustrations along the way, and yes, some of those contributed to me choosing to leave. But I leave the place with many fond memories and hope that it can once again offer authoritative and incisive coverage of a country that many English-speakers are rightly keen to understand. Newsrooms are workplaces like no other. There's a contagious energy pulsating through the place, especially when a big story is breaking. Deadlines are constant, and few tasks can be pushed back from one day to the next, so stress remains high and desks remain messy. That's what I love, and what I'

Things I brought back

There are few things more dispiriting than being subjected to the stories of someone else's holiday in excruciating detail, with every delayed flight, serendipitous encounter and historic ruin recalled as if it mattered. Those things are great to live through (except perhaps the delayed flight), but aren't nearly as captivating in facsimile form. So with that in mind, I'm sparing you the predictable travelogue of my just-completed two-week jaunt around Central Europe (Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Prague) and Middle East (Dubai airport, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Istanbul) with the delightful Miss Melanie. Instead, you get quirky bite-sized observations. Enjoy. - Central Europe seems to have been spared the worst of the continent's economic crisis, at least to the lay observer. In the cities we visited, there were few beggars, idle working-age people, abandoned buildings or cases of petty crime. Instead, there were plenty of tourists and businesspeople bustling arou

Journalism jobs going at the Jakarta Globe

The Jakarta Globe is looking for some copy editors to help keep this place humming. -------- The Jakarta Globe is one of Asia's leading English-language newspapers and websites ( ). Produced by a team of journalists from Indonesia and abroad, the outlet offers news on local, national and international affairs in the fields of politics, business, sports and the arts. The Globe is looking for several new copy editing staff to help it maintain its position as a leading source of quality news and information on Indonesia. SENIOR COPY EDITOR The senior copy editor will have at least three years experience as a writer or editor with an English-language news outlet. Responsibilities include maintaining a high standard of written prose across the masthead, liaising with reporters, writing headlines and other story components, and mentoring copy editors and checking their work. COPY EDITOR (Two vacancies) The copy editors will have a degree in journalism or exper

An open letter to the pickpocket on the No. 20 Kopaja

My dear sir, Kudos to you on your fine accomplishment last Monday. I was completely oblivious to your wily deed for a good half-hour after I stepped off the minibus, until I did the Self-Pat Down of Doom in the office and felt nothing but crestfallen disappointment. I must admit that early in your routine, before I knew that I was the mark, you had me feeling sorry for you. With your shabby clothes and receding hairline, you were struggling to generate much interest among my fellow travellers in your shabby A6 flyers that looked as if they were eighth-generation photocopies on a battered Xerox. Few people seemed interested in the Bandung reflexology service that you seemed to be touting for, and none at all were keen on having you demonstrate your technique on their hands. The dejected look on your face briefly made me feel pity for you. But knowing that I once felt pity for you makes me now feel a pang of pity for myself, or at least for the me of last Monday. So when you wand