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The Sun Shines & The Igloo Melts

Father & Child, Jakarta

"a young woman between carrolburg place and half street"washington, d.c. (1989)photographed by dawoud bey

Saul Steinberg and Kurt Vonnegut

In A Man Without A Country, Vonnegut called Steinberg “the wisest person I ever met in my entire life”:

I could ask him anything, and six seconds would pass, and then he would give me a perfect answer, gruffly, almost a growl. He was born in Romania, in a house where, according to him, “the geese looked in the windows.”
I said, “Saul, how should I feel about Picasso?”
Six seconds passed, and then he said, “God put him on Earth to show us what it’s like to be really rich.” I said, “Saul, I am a novelist, and many of my friends are novelists and good ones, but when we talk I keep feeling we are in a very different businesses. What makes me feel that way?”
Six seconds passed, and then he said, “It’s very simple. There are two sorts of artists, one not being in the least superior to the other. But one responds to the history of his or her art so far, and the other responds to life itself.”
I said, “Saul, are you gifted?”
Six seconds passed, and then he growled, “No. But what you respond to in any work of art is the artist’s struggle against his or her limitations.’

Filed under: Steinberg, Vonnegut
Karaoke, Singapore

Karaoke, Jakarta Selatan

Jokowi has won.

It’s official I read it in the New York Times:

"Mr. Joko will lead a country that has successfully consolidated its democracy and enjoyed strong economic growth under the departing president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has served two five-year terms. Indonesia has had one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia in recent years, along with China and India. But that same economy, which achieved annual growth rates of more than 6 percent from 2010 to 2012, mostly thanks to the country’s abundant natural resources and robust domestic consumption, is facing several serious challenges.

They include a trade deficit, a national fuel subsidy that sucks tens of billions of dollars each year from the state budget, inadequate infrastructure, corruption, poverty and a growing disparity between the country’s rich and poor.”

Alison Martin comments in the Guardian on what a Jokowi Presidency means for the Indonesian Australian relationship:

"Indonesia went as far as to directly request Australia not take unilateral action on that issue, saying Jakarta’s "close cooperation and trust" was at risk. Australia, true to form, forged ahead with its "turn back the boats" policy, later prompting Indonesia to deploy warships to monitor its southern border. It is relatively rare for an issue relating to Australia to make front-page Indonesian news, yet these incidents have been regularly canvassed. The relationship is in the diplomatic doldrums, and improving slowly.

During last month’s foreign policy election debate in Indonesia, both candidates acknowledged the distrust between the two nations. Although each indicated they would seek to heal the rift with Australia, they also agreed that Indonesia should not allow itself to be belittled by its neighbour.

In light of Australia’s military intervention in East Timor just 15 years ago, and its role in Konfrontasi some decades prior, there is understandable anxiety when an Australian government brands its border protection programme, which impinges upon Indonesia’s sovereignty, “Operation Sovereign Borders”. It’s easy to comprehend why national security has been cited by Jokowi as a priority, suggesting further incursions will not be received lightly.

In contrast to SBY, Jokowi will not be so personally invested in the bilateral relationship. Australia will have to work much harder to collaborate with Indonesia.”

Political Rally, Jakarta

Joko Widodo looks set to be formally declared the winner of Indonesia’s Presidential elections today - although Subianto Prabowo is pushing for a delay to the announcement, its unlikely he’ll succeed. However, he may then file a police report against the KPU and appeal to the Constitutional Court and there are concerns that riots may erupt when the result is announced today.

"President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has called for the losing candidate in the presidential race and his supporters to accept defeat graciously once the official announcement of the results is made on Tuesday, with Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo virtually certain to be declared the winner.

“Admitting defeat is noble, congratulating the winner is beautiful,” Yudhoyono said in Jakarta on Monday.”

22 July 2014, Jakarta Globe

Old Man, Tekka Centre, Singapore


Although a form of compromise has been reached in the NLB pulping controversy, the issue remains what type of society does Singapore wish to be? A Singapore open to alternatives, tolerant and inclusive, a place where the majority respects the right of minorities to co-exist and the rule of law prevails? Or a community where the wishes of an ‘offended’, militant, populist mob determine the agenda and squash any deviation from ‘community norms’. Cherian George discusses these issues here.

These type of questions face many countries in the world today (see the treatment of asylum seekers & Islamophobic attitudes in Australia). 

The tendency towards nationalism and a rigid, authoritarian vision for society will increase as economic challenges arise and the gap between rich and poor widens. This will lead to reactionary forces importing more culture wars - with governments continuing to demonstrate they have neither the ability, nor the desire, to hold in check such conflicts arising from alternative visions of society. 

Suchen Christine Lim’s speech at the Asia Pacific Writers Translators conference on 17 July 2014 is important in this context. Her wonderful speech covers the NLB book pulping issue and the important role of literature in a multicultural society. You can read the speech here.


The Writers’ Retreat, Incidental Comics

Everything has already been said and done. But, then, if this is so, why do we need more poems in the world? I once read a Jane Hirshfield interview where she said something quite wonderful. She essentially said we have to keep writing because it’s every generation’s job to put in the present vernacular poems that are called upon for rites of passage, such as poems read at weddings or funerals. I hadn’t thought of this before. Your ordinary citizen should be able to go to the library and find a poem written in the current vernacular, and the responsibility for every generation of writers is to make this possible. We must, then, rewrite everything that has ever been written in the current vernacular, which is really what the evolution of literature is all about. Nothing new gets said but the vernacular keeps changing.Mary Ruefle (via austinkleon)