Friday, April 08, 2005
Swat Sticker Clicker Tickler
After aeons of piling up swastika material, incorporating the squared spinny spiral into performances in Japan and Canada, I've finally ejaculated a website, with the collaboration and support of my associate and cyber-wizard Dimas of Doomgraphics [East Jakarta].
It's about fucking time if you'll pardon my French that somebody restored this ancient and revered mandala to its rightful place in the celestial media blitz.
The Nazis were ripoff artists par excellence. Hoary [corny] Teutonic tradition [macho nonsense], Roman fasces stuff, Hollywood style for the SS - Charlie Chaplin even accused Adolf of having stolen his moustache!
Get rid of it. Those who have made use of the symbol since the war have often done so with another ahem agenda, namely, to promote the Israeli over the Palestinian cause, and can we please have the next slide.
Let go of the neggies. Don't be niggardly with your image rinse cycle. Take it up the astronomical, for after all is the swastika not the rotating of the galaxy, the whorl of the fingerprint, the alluring vortex of water curling down the drain? Oh!
Give her a whirl: www.swastikabali.org
Thank you and cop-ya-later.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
PAWANG, the 'No-Rainmaker'! by Byron Black
During the early years of the author's residence in Indonesia, he was accustomed to taking his trusty Yamaha twin 250cc. motorcycle and risking life and limb at the old Ancol Race Course, near the beach to the East of the amusement park. It wasn't long before the local racers outgrew the narrow, rather dangerous curves of Ancol and found the money to build a brand spanking new road circuit (you'll see no trace of the old Ancol course today, alas - it's all been replaced by luxury housing).
Money wasn't really an issue when the effort was spearheaded by Hutomo Mandala Putra, aka Tommy Soeharto, and fellow car racer Chandra Alim. They pressured Bank BNI '46, Gudang Garam and other sponsors to pony up, and proceeded to build a fancy road circuit at Sentul, just off the Jagorawi Toll Road - the nice one that zooms from Taman Mini up to Bogor.
Alas, Sentul Circuit happens to fall within Bogor Regency, and this is one of the rainiest areas on Earth! Bogor (I nickname the city bocor, meaning "leaky") It is described by Statistics Canada (of all places!!) as boasting the "highest average annual number of thunderstorm days per year: 322!!
Now the most peculiar thing is that it never rains at Sentul Circuit! Time and again I've completed a day of high-speed competition on my 1993 Kawasaki ZXR-750RR, loaded it up on the truck, and headed out to the Jagorawi, only to find it was pouring down the wet stuff with terrific force and volume. (Back in rainy Vancouver, my home town, we used to call it "liquid sunshine").
What is the meaning of this?
Well, the story is that, from the outset, those who planned Sentul Circuit, fully realizing it was in the Bogor Rain Zone, called in the pawang hujan. This sorcerer is described classically as follows (Indonesian-English dictionary online at http://www.asiamaya.com/kamus/p/pawang.htm)
pawang expert; guide, steersman, hunter, medicine man, wild-beast tamer one endowed with magic powers
(kata umum - a common word)
bestari expert, skilled; bright, clever; well-bred, accomplished
piawai skilled, expert, sophisticated
tenaga ahli expert
pawang hujan one who controls rainfall one with a special skill
(kata umum - a common word)
pawang gajah elephant tamer
(kata umum - a common word)
A certain helpful Bapak Zulkarman has the following to say about naughty pawang at http://members.tripod.com/~zulkarman/bmagic.html:
Black Magic in Aceh
Simeulue is rich tradition, folk tales superstition, and black magic. This Island has a bad reputation in the rest of Aceh for its black magic. One often meets people who tell strange stories, but one seldom (or never) finds any proof or witnesses of black magic by oneself in Simeulue. Whether true or not, the subject is always interesting. Locals in Simeulue do not like to talk about it, especially about the negative aspects. They feel embarrassed and afraid that people would refrain from visiting their Island. The magic is performed by a so called "dukun" which translates into "witch doctor", or shaman (traditional healer). There is both good and bad magic. A "dukun patah" can heal a broken leg. Another dukun can kill with only a simple touch. People have got sick with cancer ("Tinggam") planted by a dukun. This kind of negative magic is often called "guna-guna". The only way to get well in such a case is through treatment by another dukun who can counter the evils of the evil dukun. When a fully-loaded ship ran aground on a shoal, and there were no logical ways of getting it loose, a famous dukun was asked to help. With his supernatural powers he managed to decrease the ship's weight, resulting in the ship floating higher - and in this way it moved off the reef. Before someone to starts to study and learn magic, an oath, never to use the magic for personal profit, has to be taken. If this oath is broken, mantras lose their function and special powers are lost. There is one kind of black magic that destroys the dukun himself unless he uses it against other people. According to local beauty standards, a dukun is often ugly-looking. Dabois is a form of magic that often performed on stage. Dabois can be seen in most areas of Aceh. Dabois is sometimes also labeled "traditional dancing". The performers stab and cut themselves with sharp objects, without getting hurt. In Simeulue they even use chainsaws.
A related phenomenon is the "pawang" who can communicate with animals. Simeulue is famous for its many "pawang buaya"; (buaya is crocodile). A pawang buaya has long experience with crocodiles and have often full control over all the crocodiles in a certain river. His control is based on supernatural powers and crocodiles follow his orders. The late pawang Pak Kalitua often used a crocodile for transportation over the river by standing on the back of one. "That's just showing off", one becak driver in Sinabang exclaimed. When a pawang calls a crocodile to come, he gives the beast eggs and betel leaves and reads mantras. Not only men are pawang buaya. In village of Latiun near Labuhan Bajau is very old female pawang buaya.
WOW! Anyway there isn't much to fear from crocs in Jakarta or Bali - only the two-legged kind (that's translated "wolf" in English!)
The rainmaker can naturally use his powers of gentle persuasion to delay, stop or postpone the rain as well, and that is where the frisky Tommy Soeharto hired the fellow to come to Sentul Circuit.
It's 13.30 and we're getting ready for the Superbike Event: 15 laps at speeds of up to 280 km/h. Yamaha R-1s, a Suzuki Hayabusa, plenty of R-6s raring to go.
But ugh! Look at those swollen black clouds from the South, threatening to unload tons of lubricating liquid on the racers!
Strangely enough, the clouds just hang there. And nothing else happens. Except that we get to charge around the race course on our merry way, as the air is thick with moisture and lightning is crackling over Bukit Sentul way. It simply refuses to rain!
Is this true, or just nonsense and superstition, the hard-headed Westerner will ask critically. Sure, fine, ask on! How about the very business-oriented (read: greedy) five-star hotels in Bali, who are approached by prominent families with an inquiry about holding a garden wedding at the Hotel.
The Hotel Event$ $upervi$or i$ delirious$ly happy at the thought of a seventy million Rupiah wedding on the premises. But alas, this is Bali, Island of the fogs. And rainstorms! What to do.
The Hotel has no doubt as to what to do. Organizersvery discreetly contact their favorite dukun or pawang (the two terms appear to be somewhat interchangeable) and ask that he talk sweetly to the rain clouds, soothe them, coax them to hold their water awhile longer, to be nice to the newlyweds.
So the pawang goes to work, with his gentle force, moving clouds this way and that. The rain holds off, the fat cats all gather in the Hotel garden, the wedding promises to be a glorious (and DRY) success.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a rival pawang is smoldering.
"Who does that bum think he is? How does the Hotel get away with paying big money to a faker like him! Big shot, is he? Ha! I'll show them all!' he screeches, flapping his arms and fluttering his eyebrows.
So right in the middle of the happy event, KA-BOOM, the skies tear open, the thunder goes wham, the lightning crackles, and the wedding party is thoroughly doused with fierce rain, as they scramble to head back into the shelter of the hotel.
Oh dear. The poor hotel (and the wedding guests) was just caught in the pawang crossfire!
In short, the strong one defeated the weaker one. He walks tall. Jago.
But if rain is all you have to worry about, or making it hold off awhile, you can consider yourself lucky. Consider the other kind of dukun, the one practicing the fearsome guna-guna, and watch out!
Time and again Indonesian wives, humiliated, fed up, and frustrated with their frolicsome foreign boyfriends or husbands, have found there is no recourse but to head to the medicine man.
The usual story starts off sweet: darling I will love you forever, yessss me too, I love you too, kissy kissy poo, hearts thump thump thumping.
But after a few years the glamour wears off. The husband is older and he is clearly tired of an older-looking wife. They have had quarrels, usually about money (the innocent foreign husband not realizing that when you marry here, you don't just marry a nice-looking woman, you marry into the entire family! And no matter how poor you may plead, they see you as a gold mine).
Then the fatal move: the husband, miserable about his spouse, finds a sweet young "second wife", aka hot patootie, and lavishes love and money on her.
The first wife goes to the dukun, pays him five million, and what do you know?
- the husband begins to have raging headaches
- the husband's business runs into big unexpected difficulties
- the husband gets robbed, more than once, on the way to and from work
- the husband's accountant dips his hand into the till and absconds with millions
And the poor expat resident, so crafty in his engineering or designing or financial wizardry, but so innocent of the ways of the world, can't figure out why he has become beset by so many worries.
The most interesting curse I ever heard of was placed upon the head of a rich, smart, famous Australian resident in Bali. He was gloriously successful in business, famed across the seas, but a rather nasty individual. He insulted and belittled more than a few of his erstwhile friends, and so, unhappy at this behavior, they consulted a Balinese dukun, who came up with a very novel punishment: the Australian businessman was suddenly unable to control his tongue, and he was spitting out vile curses at everyone he spoke to: customers, bank executives, policemen, business partners. He knew something was wrong but by this time it was out of control.
What happened to him? Shall I point out his cool, charming place in the graveyard? Or wouldn't you rather hike down to the beach with us? We're going to have a wonderful time in the sun: if it doesn't rain, that is!
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Bicycling Down From Bandung
Celebrated the arrival of 2005 by tearing through preconceptions of 'act your age' by bicycling down from Bandung, where my shaky tenure at the dying University had been casually amputated.
Four months previously I'd purchased a sturdy [ugly] Taiwanese 21-speeder to get around the kunst kapital of West Java, on my weekly sojourns there to teach English. I'd ridden powered two-wheelers mostly over the past 40 years, riding and racing internal combustion whizzers. Now that I was approaching middle age (he he), I thought it more appropriate to make myself work to get from 'A' to 'B'.
I was being driven out of Bandung? So how to get the bicycle (not to mention half a ton of office stuff) down to Jakarta? Well, it's a fucking bicycle, so you ride it the two hundred or so clicks.
I cheated though. Bandung roosts at an altitude of some 750 meters above sea level while Indonesia's capital city is in fact tipping into the Java Sea. It's pleasant, though: "Bandung was a popular place to go in summer for the Dutch, since the climate is a lot better than in Jakarta. The city is located at an elevation of 750 meter. The Dutch left their traces and Bandung is one of the best places to find Dutch colonial architecture." Yadda yadda. I mostly like the dirty deco that is crumbling all over you as you tour this furiously green metropolis.
The big bridge above the chasm of the river whose name you don't really need and I've misplaced. The river, seen at the top, is like all waterways of Java best appreciated from a considerable distance as they are unbelievably fouled up close. Plastic, immortal plastic, festoons the shores. Heavy erosion (from unstoppable deforestation) leaves them brown and silty.
And if you're really lucky you can spot a local yokel squatting in the cool waters dropping a log. It really is quite pleasant and refreshing to take a shit in the river - you should try it sometime! Alas of course for those downstream, washing their pots and pans in the merrily bubbling waters, small kiddies splashing away. But after all they are strangers, not part of our immediate family, so of no concern. Ah.
This was near the end of my 'cheater' stage of the ride, heading into Cianjur. From Bandung one fights the traffic to Padalarang (nice because of the four "A"s), and then it's a steep, twisty drop on rough, crowded roads down to Rajamandala, whose new mosque I've added to the photo archives:
Sorry it was late afternoon as I passed through so colours are muted.
From Cianjur the party was over: a steep and steady climb past the volcanic Gunung Gede to Sukabumi ("love-land"), to Cibadak ("water-rhino", though of course no one but me translates it like that, and rhinos are relatively scarce), to Parungkuda (less the horses), where I packed it in.
Here's mean-looking Gunung Gede from the other side: beauteous and lethal.
This picture is something of a lie, as this road is normally crowded with high-speed trucks and busses and motorcycles and pickups jostling against one another. The lone cyclist stands not a chance.
Great fun was found in passing motor vehicles, choked in the traffic.
These shots are not staged: for the second part of the journey I had Sudiro ready with the video camera to catch the yellow fellow passing. He had ridden up from Jakarta with the yeller fellator the following Saturday to Parakansalak (love those five "A"s), my mountain hideout where the Swastika Tower is a-building.
Normally you see me at high speed, naughty 64-year-old racing the downtown Jakarta racers.
And now, as an antidote to all this screaming me me mes, other windows into infinity, shots from the Baron for you to orb at.
Another life, another world, memories swim beneath the surface.
Diptych of Bandung Station, cutting out all the trash and broken-up stuff and sad sack locals.
Rarely do I indulge in creepy imagery, and am supremely contemptuous of the Diane Arbus approach to the wavelength. But this one, in Banten (witchcraft, Dutch ruins, Chinese, local industries) caught me. Still gives the creeps.
Much prefer Sumatra, the west coast anyway, for shooting and for living. Hard to convince the boys of the miracle of homo-expresso though, alas.
You can't quite read the name of the textile factory atop the wall, by the road to Situ Gunung, Sukabumi. Today a paddy.
Gunung Gede blows and we're goners for sure. (Of course it will: it last erupted in 1750, five minutes or so volcano time). (Next time around it could easily take out Bogor and Jakarta - ha, property values into the toilet).
Catch it while you can! "Tanah Merah" ("red earth"), the open kampong area near where I live, is being walled off and will be "developed" into sleazo middle-class crypto-Greek/Egyptian/Chinese palaces. So much for cagar budaya, the "culture reserve" of Condet.
On the way down here by Honda 250 trail motorcycle with Saddam, I was politely advised not to dawdle on the road. "Well Mister, you should either plan on spending the night in Ujung Genteng, or leave in time to make Pelabuhan Ratu before sunset. Over the last two years six people have been lost."
Lost? What the hell?
Later, from another local, I hear of a favorite trick of the local Sundanese bandidos: stretch a cable between two trees, on either side of the road. Catch the motorcyclist and bring him off. Take the motorcycle and hightail it. Either kill or abandon the rider laying broken on the road, as you prefer.
I do miss Thailand, in spite of all the resentment I harbor over the way I was treated there (the way I was treated while working in Thailand being in reality not really different from the way just about any farang gets dealt with). I wonder whether they're still giggling mai pen rai after the tsunami walloped them.
Thai durian are the finest in the world. Narcotic for some, utterly repellant for others. I got so intoxicated on them during the 1985 season that I would smell of durian all day long (scrubbing myself diligently all the while); I would dream of durian.
The fruit they export is what they practically throw away in Bangkok. Nice durian there, such as these, go for $50. each, and you can only get them in special markets. Sigh.
Rajah Basah, the "Rain King Mountain" at the southern tip of Sumatra near Kalianda; locals get smeared up with sulfur in the mistaken belief it is good for the skin. Friends, it ROTS the skin. And it hurts too. Tell me about it.
More from the berserk recycler: rat-roadkill treated as art: "i, it's me[at]!"
More unsalable art from the Master of Images (Monster of Mirages).
One of the collections in the Image Lounge is oddities (another, more prominent, piracies). What to make of a brand of kretek ciggies called "Match Brand"? I bet the French could grind out some fancy theory around this one!
KontoLisa. Alas, the pun does not function in English.
A variation of Monkey Lisa, featured in the upcoming PrimeMates websites
Well folks, I guess it's time I rubbed on my Hollymoon Vanishing Cream. Blogback on ya soon! Copyalator!
DEATH SENTENCE FOR THE PRIMATE
So I'm thinking about what to do about Mr. Bondan. The death penalty. The intelligent suggestion from the interesting Mr. Achmad Taufik, who had never read Mario Puzo's The Last Don, was that his steel cage should be submerged in the river, with the animal within, to mercy-drown him.
I had already been somewhat dismayed by the alternatives that occurred to me: death by electrocution, beating him to death with bamboo staves, stabbing him through the bars, feeding him a rat poison-laced creampuff (which he would snatch from my hand, scratching me and trying to bite, truly bite, the hand feeding him. Quite something! But no, none of those inelegant approaches.
Of course in the book those unfortunates whose steel cages were consigned to the bottom of the ocean were already extinguished, zipped up in heavy body bags. With Bondan he will see it coming, just like Charles Darwin, another ingrate who bit the Baron savagely, and is today playing his simian harp in monkey Heaven.
That's an interesting story. Darwin was stationed down on the Ciliwung at Dudung's house, as my own place in Batu Ampar had become too hot to host monkeys: children getting bit, mothers complaining, local authorities getting into the act.
I'd moved them all to the riverside and was paying Dudung's mother on a monthly basis to host the animals. Darwin had already bitten several children and was wild's though on a long chain up a tree.
We decided to release him into the wild, though that meant bringing him down from his perch, which he resisted strongly, flying around on his chain.
When I attempted to reel him in, to take him off to a cage I had secured to the back of my Binter Merzy motorcycle, he swiveled his head, bit me deeply just above the right thumb, swiveling his head right and left to work the fangs in more deeply.
I could see the bone, peeking whitely through the open flesh. I seized him by the throat from behind, so he could not bite again, and closed my fist to where he could barely breathe. Half-choking, his focus more on getting air than struggling, Mr. Charles Darwin was marched off to the motorcycle.
The locals were already starting to gather, and when they observed the fresh gash, which was strangely enough not bleeding much through gleaming open flesh, it was doubly entertaining.
Here was this bald glowering white man in shorts and t-shirt, throttling an angry monkey, walking wounded to a cage on a motorcycle. The circus comes to town, particularly in a place where a crowd will gather to watch a bule change a flat tire.
Darwin was thrust into the steel cage, and when released turned and gave me a look that said "You may have me locked up in here, but I got you and I got you good". Which he had. I was mostly annoyed at the trouble it was going to be: over to the Condet Jaya 24-hour Clinic, where the jovial attendant would see me walk in and chirrup "Monkey bit you again, eh?" even before he saw the wound.
Trouble was, it was Sunday. The Clinic happened to be out of tetanus vaccine, which is precisely what I needed a shot of to pep me up. The jovial attendant sewed me up, and I reflected once again that head do fine in a Frankenstein film, or perhaps a spell in a seamstress class would do him some good. It was rough but the stitches held and nothing was leaking.
I could already tell that the animal had severed nerves, and six years later there is still a dead area just along the rear of the thumb.
So Suwitno and I took the bike home, unbolted the cage, and rode off again, in search of vaccine.
All the apotik were closed, which struck me as odd, as people need medicine even on Sunday, but I eventually managed to get the tetanus booster, expensively, at Medistra Hospital.
Got home, walked in the door, found the cage empty. "So what did you do with him,â€™ I joked jovially, â€˜drown him in the river?"
Three heads nodded solemnly in unison.
Oh dear. Well, no use crying over spilt SIMIAN. What could I do, what good would a scolding do? The animal was dangerous, it had lost its fear of humans, and with two hundred twenty million of us roaming the archipelago there was practically nowhere you could release a monkey without it homing in on some poor local, raiding the kitchen, biting a child, and getting itself kilt.
Now we have a animal considerably bigger, definitely homicidal in intent, and incorrigible. Better not to send him a halo than to keep him cooped up in a cramped steel cage for years?
(He shakes the cage violently all day long; the whole house shudders in harmony). (Lemme outta this joint. They ain't built a jail yet that can hold me.)
Yesterday was one more nail in his coffin, as I discovered that the well-meaning folk at eBay donâ€™t allow live animals to be listed. Well so much for flogging him down the internet. Looks like the swan dive for you buster.
Confession: fantasy of selling Bondan and Byron over the web for seven thousand dollars. Not a bad price when you look at what macaques are going for in the USA these days. Hopeless.
And I havenâ€™t even bothered about contacting the creatures who export macaques for medical experimentation. I may have to kill this old pal of mine, but will not deliver him to the cold clutches of Dr. Mengele.
I examined my feelings closely, to see whether I felt the need for revenge. Many times in past years I have keenly seen myself as a Tom Ripley, taking neat revenge on another homo sapiens sapiens and not getting caught in the act.
But for Bondan I not only felt no vengefulness, I honestly felt no anger at the stupid misguided son-of-a-bitch. Who was it if not me who saved his life, dragging the vet over to the house on a Sunday evening so she could stuff his guts back into his belly, when Byron ripped him loose.
That must have been it. In his opiated drowsiness, seeing me hovering over him with concern and interest, watching the doctor suture him up, he must have equated the pain he felt with yours truly Baron Infinity. Alas, I could say or do nothing to change that raging monkey mind.
So it was over his head in the filthy river for this dangerous primate. The crowning blow was when all the zoos turned me down, I did not want anyoneâ€™s savaged child on my conscience (Release this mad macaque on an island with ninety million people? I would have to be crazier than Bondan).
Itâ€™s just a shame that no one wanted to take me up on my offer to give the mortal remains for making sate, fried spicy monkey-kebab on a stick. Hell, if you're gonna kill it, eat it at the very least.
My leg is healing nicely. But a mass of nerves are still dead in the calf, and the muscles have formed a large knot where he severed them. Will I ever be able to do my Nijinsky act again?
Electronics repair carried out by a Chinese here will often be as good as that done by a technician in Japan or the West " or even better, because here they have to improvise. If an IC is missing or the power supply on some ancient device, say a Betamax recorder, is burnt out, then they'll come up with something from a dead Korean TV set that they can jury-rig to work.
With pribumis, however, repair is not precisely as we understand it: it's replacement rather than repair. You keep changing the bit that you suspect might be busted until the thing works again. Try changing the water pump? No? Then change the hose to the water pump? Then we replace the entire radiator. Still running in the red zone? Then change the thermostat. Oh, now itâ€™s working! That's great. And you got yourself a nice new water pump, hose and radiator in the bargain. Complain and the mechanic gets profoundly offended.
"You don't understand how we had to struggle against you honkeez for our independence, all those years of suffering against the colonialists, yadda yadda."
What? Are we not discussing car repair or lousy magazine subscription service (the notorious Indoprom)? Pretend offense, look wounded, and always bear before you the standard rationale, emblazoned in gold, for Javanese behaviour:
"It's not my fault!"
You can easily perceive the absence of intellectual analysis, step-by-step breakdown of a problem beforehand.
The so-called mechanic or technician will just plug in new bits under the device comes back to life. How did it comes back into operation? What was defective? Don't even bother thinking about it. That's not part of the issue.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
2005 in Baron Infinity Calligraphic Splendour
Be it decreed that it shall forever be the Year of the Monkey!
Monday, January 03, 2005
A Remarkably Peculiar Point of View
Evening in infinity.
Expatriate of convenience, ruthless
fruit Aryan born of the Strategic Air Command and Lysergic Acid,
this is one mean and fun-loving 64-year-old. He's for sale at the
right price, but the price is rarely right.
Formerly a hardened 1950s Liberal
Democrat by inclination, he writes bunga-bunga (hack ad copy) for a
living in Jakarta, while pursuing easy boys and riding one of his
collection of 2smoke Nipponese sports motorcycles very hard and
competitively. Cross him not, but humour him and he'll laugh you out
loud. Read on and comment at your peril, for here, dear Internet
friend, is 'a screw loose in Denmark'.