intertribal: (want me to get you something daddy?)
So, The Dark Knight Rises - the last Nolan Batman movie (God willing).  I really liked Batman Begins, which I think I saw in theaters with Christina when neither of us knew what we were expecting - and we were both like, "I think I really kind of LIKED IT" - and have a special relationship with The Dark Knight, which I saw on my own in a shopping mall/movie theater in Surabaya after I bought a canvas bag that said "Life.  Industry.  Work.  Strength."  I saw The Dark Knight Rises last weekend in another shopping mall/movie theater in Jakarta with mixed company, and I felt frustrated and disappointed with it. 

Many people have talked about the questionable politics of The Dark Knight Rises - I particularly like Abigail Nussbaum's review (but when is that ever not true?).  Others have pointed out that these weird fascistic/Randian trends have been in Nolan's Batman movies the entire time, although I must confess I didn't really see them.  To me Batman Begins wasn't very controversial politically, and The Dark Knight was about the classic dilemmas facing public servants trying to do the right thing (I think the most interesting character in it is Dent's) as well as the personal mental collapse that takes place when you decide you can't take trying anymore (see for instance "that's it, I'm moving to Canada" on a much more mundane level, or "fuck iiiiiit" in meme terms).  In the Order vs. Chaos argument, I think a pretty compelling point was made for Chaos, even if officially Order won out.  The Dark Knight Rises, on the other hand, was really playing up the 1% vs. 99% thing, and the 99% pretty much turn out to be duped by an evil that has no motivation other than to be evil.  It actually kind of reminded me of Michael Crichton's "environmentalists are actually engineering global warming to scare us all into going with the Kyoto Protocol!" as well as of that terrible book by Glenn Beck.  The 1% don't even really commit any sins except their parties are boring.  And then there they are, being thrown out on the streets and executed by exile onto a sea of thin ice!  Even Catwoman, the "Robin Hood" character, is all "Batman, you don't owe these plebes anything, they stole all your money."  So yeah, all that: kind of sucky.

Beyond that, I didn't find the movie as much "fun" as I did its predecessors.  I had heard a lot about the explosion in the football stadium scene beforehand but it did not pack the emotional punch that it truly should have, given me and my inclinations.  I actually felt most emotional in the opening scene, during the nuclear physicist's surprise kidnapping.  I don't really know why - maybe the claustrophobia and imminent death involved for such a small pack of people?  But the police being stuck in the tunnels, then surprise!liberated and being gunned down like Theoden's Riders in The Return of the King - meh.  The random schoolbus of orphaned boys - meh.  The pit?  I did feel a twinge when Bruce Wayne makes it out at last, but it was for the cheering prisoners still in the pit, not Bruce Wayne.  This one just didn't click with me.  It felt cold and distant and unwilling to really give of itself.

On the other hand: Alfred the loyal-unto-death butler and Gordon the beleaguered police commissioner were great.  I think those two and Blake (the scrappy new cop) were really the actual soul of the movie, as far as it had a soul at all - the most human characters, at any rate.  Batman/Bruce Wayne was just kind of annoying/useless (ironically), Catwoman was like What Happens When Men Write Women #5a, or so, and Miranda Tate would have potentially been a competent character if not for the barren face heel turn.  Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow was also fun. 

If anything I sort of wished Batman was erased from this movie, and that it was just the tale of the horribly dysfunctional city that had to fend for itself - that there truly was no ubermensch to save it.  Because I'm fond of Gotham - have been since the beginning - and I was always fiercely of the belief that the League of Shadows was wrong, and Gotham should not be sacrificed as hopelessly corrupt.  Maybe that's because I come from a city that really reminds me of Gotham, sometimes ("criminals in this town used to believe in things - honor, respect!"), and Gotham being assailed by Chaos was like the Jemaah Islamiyah era here, when hotels were being blown up; and the Gotham being assailed by Quasi-Revolution is like what's happening now, with people burning suspected thieves in the street.  And let me tell you: we have no ubermensch.  What we might have, if we're lucky, is a Gordon, a couple Blakes.  We certainly have plenty of Alfreds.

ANYWAY.  Something else I realized while watching The Dark Knight Rises: I think I may be finally shifting my gaze from older men (father substitutes, all) to men my age (the "damaged" ones, but oh well).  I was way, way more attracted to Joseph Gordon-Levitt in this movie than Bruce Wayne (that scene where he's running to the hospital with the rifle!  Rarr!), and that is new.  I was talking about this with my mother, and concluded that regardless of who I actually date, my ideal type seems to be this older, married, brooding political scientist type that is clearly a doppelganger for my father.  And it's also!  A completely safe, riskless outlet for whatever feelings I might develop, because I know in my hardest of hearts that nothing real can actually happen there.  There was no possibility of anything developing.  I couldn't really get involved.  I wasn't going to get heartbroken.  Plus it let me deal with my Daddy Issues.  Sort of, anyway.  I mean, the walls I put up -- both because my father died and everything normal and happy was shattered, and probably just because of me, because I was born nuts -- were miles high.

But I think that's starting to change, and that's a good thing.
intertribal: (where would you go if the gun fell in yo)
I'm getting ready to write a story about self-immolation (what a great opening line that is) so I've been doing a lot of research on that, but I hadn't run across this.

At my internship I'm making this enormous insane database of internal conflict/collective violence in Indonesia since the beginning of the year, with columns like "# Houses Burned" and "Types of Arms Used" and "Army Deployed?" (you would be alarmed by how much of it there is), and this requires reading lots and lots of Indonesian newspaper articles that pertain, even vaguely, to the topic.  The latest one, an argument that these small conflicts are beginning to threaten national security, mentions Sondang Hutagalung, a 22-year-old law student (son of a taxi driver) who self-immolated a few months before his planned graduation in front of the Palace of Independence as part of a campaign against government corruption/graft:

From here (note the picture):
“Time for change, remember Tunisia, dissolve the legislature,” Rakrian Yoga said in his Twitter feed, alluding to the death of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi from self-immolation, which sparked the Tunisian revolution that led to the ouster of the country’s president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Bung Karno University will grant an honorary bachelor’s degree to him. 

“A number of public figures and organizations suggested granting the honorary bachelor’s degree,” university deputy rector Daniel Panda said on Sunday in Jakarta as quoted by  He added that the granting of the degree should not been taken as encouragement for other students to do the same thing. 

“As an academic, I hope there will be no repeat of such a measure. There are other options. This is a too high a sacrifice.”
I had no idea that such things were happening in Indonesia - it is not a "tradition" here (see here).  We burn buildings and get shot by the military, but political suicide is not a thing.  I suspect the "remember Tunisia" line is key.  You always wonder about precedent though (in May - in an apparently completely unrelated, random incident - a 69-year-old Dutch citizen self-immolated in front of the Dutch embassy in Jakarta, but he apparently thought that the police were in collusion with the Balinese mafia and trying to chase him).  It is interesting also that Sondang was a devout Christian who always accompanied his mother to church.  A couple months later his girlfriend tried to kill herself out of personal grief, by overdosing on anti-malaria pills in front of his grave. 

This song was playing on my iTunes while I was reading about this:

intertribal: (i'd rather die)
Jan what are you watching?
 me indonesian cryptozoology show
 Jan ok
i'm getting ready to go get some lunch soon
 me yum
 Jan you think?
 me no
i think they're hunting for a giant
or a giant something
the fuck is that?
 Jan idk
but it's cryptozoology
maybe it's an alien
 me mm
 Jan or a leftover dinosaur
or a variation on the burrito
 me ok
 Jan really?
 me giant burrito is swimming in caves in eastern indonesia
 Jan yummy
big party time
 me kinda slimy i would think
this is the most ridiculous conversation we've ever had
 Jan maybe it wears water proof tortillas
ok, i'm out of it
 me clearly you want a burrito
intertribal: (Default)
1. Money first.  Dreams later.  The Dark God of Capitalism, etc., The Unnameable Slithering Horror, is actually not the worst fate for Southeast Asia after all.
2.  I am exactly like my father, temperament-wise, hence my impatience with incompetence.  Uh-oh.
3.  Cities need effective mass public transportation.  Especially poor ones.
4.  Moderate Islam is in the fight of its life.  I don't want to sound hysterical but the situation is much more dire than I think outsiders know - not in terms of the effects on the amorphous "war on terror" but in terms of the survival of the affected nations/states. 
5.  I need to grow up.  I need to settle down.  I need to stop comparing myself to others and be honest with myself about what I need, not what others think I need. 
6.  Everybody wants to be Korean.
7.  I am actually pretty good at killing mosquitoes.
8.  Typing without an a key is hard.
intertribal: (i could never speak anyway)
Years ago, while interning in Surabaya, I read an op-ed titled "Tremble, Burn, Die."  It was about terrorism - Indonesian newspapers like to take dramatic license with their titles - but the title stuck with me, and I planned to use it as the title of a hypothetical final book in a hypothetical "Nusantara" series about Americans in Indonesia that I would hypothetically someday write.  It was going to be the big, crashing finale to what would have been a slow burn in the previous two books - when the forces of democratization, terrorism, and natural disasters are finally unleashed (and a former human-rights-violating-general sings a love song at an independence day party -> based on something I witnessed, btw).  Not that I've written any of this, of course.  It lives on the back burner.

I'm in Indonesia again, Jakarta this time, and last night talking to my uncle I was struck by how many times he mentioned people burning things down.  "People are out of control," he said, "and they just want to burn everything.  Even the governor's house, in Papua."  The Lady Gaga concert that got cancelled?  An Islamic fundamentalist group threatened to gather dozens of people from around the region and burn down the stadium if it went on - and the cops backed down.  Companies leaving Indonesia?  "When the workers want to raise the minimum wage, they just get people together to burn down the factory." 

It's creepy.  Everyone here has decided that Indonesia lacks strong leadership, all but wishing for the days of Suharto - my other uncle (who I hadn't seen since literally the mid-90s, and it turns out he's awesome, so that's cool) - was like, "Yeah, that is the sadness of Indonesia, that the people need a leader that is pretty much a dictator."  It's what made my dad so depressed about the country.  Speaking of my dad, apparently someone at the Jakarta Post knows who he is and thinks it's sad that he died and his ideas were ahead of his time.  His thesis posited that Indonesia needed to build a middle class to challenge authoritarian rule.  I wonder now if he lost faith in that solution.

Looking at the article again, this is where the title comes from, by the way: an Afghan poet named Khalilullah Khalili: "Out of pain and sorrow destiny has molded me. What, alas, has been my joy from the cup of life? Like a candle burning in the blowing wind, I tremble, I burn, I die."
intertribal: (baby got eight more lives)
Don't Be Afraid of Becoming a Pilot!
The risk for pilots appears to be high, for instance from aircraft incidents or accidents. Is this really a realistic reason for parents to be afraid of their children becoming pilots? The risks are relative. I myself have been involved in an aircraft accident, but I am still alive.
Any article from Indonesian Aviation, you should take with a big ol' spoonful of salt. 
intertribal: (there's a she-wolf in your closet)
This is inspired by my bff [ profile] royinpink's posts on teaching history, and an earlier post I made about Nazis and our perspective on them.  It's just an anecdote, but I like anecdotes.

Indonesian schools are really bad at teaching history.  Sejarah, history, is part of IPS (Ilmu Pengetahuan Sosial), social knowledge, and although I think that history everywhere is often a tool of social control, this is particularly true in countries like Indonesia, where we went from no mass education to the Dutch Ethical Policy to authoritarianism.  So my history classes in elementary school were very, very bad.  Bad as in factually incorrect.  My mother gave me homeschool lessons on top of my actual school lessons.  No idea what it's like now.  Judging by reports of what it's like in Japanese and German history classes, I'm going to go with "tense." 

So obviously I didn't know that in 1965, between 500,000 and 1,000,000 "Communists" were killed in Indonesia, over a span of a few weeks.  Oh, I knew about 1965.  I knew it as Gestapu, Gerakan September 30, when evil Communists kidnapped and killed six military officers and dropped them in a well called Lubang Buaya, Crocodile Hole.  The real tragedy, as taught to us, was that the Communists had also killed one general's little girl.  A reasonably well-done propagandistic movie about her death was supposedly shown to school children every year on September 30, although I have never seen it (my mother has). 

By the time I learned about all the mass executions that were carried out "in revenge" for the generals' deaths, I was in college.  I knew about the Cold War and McCarthyism by then.  I wrote a research paper about who was doing the killing.  The Indonesian Army has always said that angry mobs got out of control and hunted out Communists themselves, but nobody believes that the Army had nothing to do with what was happening.  However, the Army couldn't have killed all those people on its own, and I doubt the Army would have wanted to.  My theory, which seems to square with the few accounts of civilians who were involved in the killings, is that the Army pushed the gory details of the generals' deaths on the already anxious public, drove into towns with guns and tanks, and "strongly encouraged" young patriotic, Muslim men to do their part protecting Indonesia and kill Communists.  I think the Army wanted entire communities to get involved because they wanted to share the blood.  One anecdote I read was about a dentist who had killed Communists in 1965 and had nightmares where he saw the faces of the people he killed, years later.

This was all very horrific for me, and late in my research paper it occurred to me that my father had been 18 in 1965 (my father died in 1998).  I called my mother in a panic - had he been involved?  The thought made me nauseous.  My mother said she didn't know, but he probably just hid somewhere and stayed out of it.  She couldn't imagine him not sharing something like that with her.  I believed that and moved on.  

Half a year later I was in Indonesia for an internship and I visited my relatives in Jogjakarta.  My father was the oldest of ten, and my aunt and uncle are the only relatives on his side of the family that I know, because they were the ones my dad was closest to.  On our last day there, we went to a military museum next to our hotel.  This museum was surreally awful.  Old tanks - made in the U.S.A.! - parked in front, with a dim, un-air-conditioned network of rooms under terracotta roofs.  Every artifact imaginable from various wars is on display, with little explanation.  Photographs of decapitated soldiers and open mass graves cover the walls.  And in the 1965 room, replicas of the dead generals' blood-stained uniforms.  This room quieted my aunt, who had been a teen in 1965, and she started to talk about fighting the Communists with my dad.  Something about storming a theater that was run by a Communist, and breaking into a school, and having bullets shot at her while she was on the roof.  I asked what my dad had done, and she said that he had gone to help "guard the Communists" that had been captured and were awaiting execution.  I don't know if he actually killed anyone or not, and will never know.

This shattered me.  At lunch I started bawling because I felt this made my father "a bad person".  My aunt didn't understand - "no, he wasn't a Communist, he was against the Communists!" - but my uncle, who had been a kid in 1965 but had gone to school in the U.S. (like my dad), got it.  There wasn't really much he could say, other than to remind me that my dad became an anti-government Marxist himself several years later, and smuggled copies of the banned Communist Manifesto into the country on steamships.  I called my mother and told her all this in the hotel that evening.  I felt bad telling her, because it would mean that my dad hadn't told her himself, but my mother just figured that it was a part of his life he didn't want to remember.  My parents were 40 when they got married.  They left behind a lot.

It took me a while longer to accept this without feeling ill.  In the long run I think it actually really helped my understanding of my dad's generation - explained the extreme sense of betrayal evident in the 1970s student protests that he was a part of - and my understanding of atrocities in general and the people that commit them, why they commit them.  It's a cliche, but it made me look at everything I thought I knew about history differently.  It helped me understand nationalism from a less biased perspective.  Of course my understanding is lacking, and always will be.  I don't have my dad to talk to about it.  Which is part of the problem of history in general. 

This song sort of sums up where I am now on this matter: "Freezing" by Philip Glass (vocals by Linda Ronstadt, lyrics by Suzanne Vega).  

intertribal: (what an s.o.b.)
Former President Roh Moo-hyun of South Korea, whose reputation as an upstanding political leader had been tarnished recently by a corruption scandal, committed suicide on Saturday by jumping off a cliff near his retirement home, according to his aides and the police.

Mr. Roh, who had prided himself on being a clean politician during his term from 2003 to 2008, was questioned for 10 hours on April 30 by state prosecutors over his alleged involvement in a corruption scandal that has already landed some of his relatives and aides in jail.

“I can’t look you in the face because of shame,” Mr. Roh told reporters before he presented himself for questioning by prosecutors in Seoul, who had accused him of taking $6 million in bribes from a businessman while in office. “I apologize for disappointing the people.”

In his last posting on his Web site, on April 22, he wrote, “You should now discard me.”

He added: “I no longer symbolize the values you pursue. I am no longer qualified to speak for such things as democracy, progressiveness and justice.”

The United States has long worried about the fate of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, where radical Islamic groups staged a series of attacks against Western interests in the early years of this decade. But the country’s television viewers have embraced shows that, though not explicitly American, are American in their formats, conceits and, often, values.

The genre is ascending here as political Islam, surging five years ago, has lost momentum among voters. The success of reality television — technically British in origin but identified here with American culture — reinforces the results of the country’s recent general election. In that election, voters seemed to be motivated by issues like good government and better living standards rather than the role of religion in society.

“A lot of people were taken aback by the Islamization of Indonesia, and the pendulum has swung back the other way,” said Mr. Heryanto, who recently became head of Southeast Asian studies at the Australian National University in Canberra.

“We’re trying to experiment with different versions of modernity, and this time American culture is in,” he said.

intertribal: (Default)

An Indonesian man rowed his wooden boat through polluted waters at Pluit Dam in Jakarta.

intertribal: (Default)
Does no one know the song "Track III" off Der Blutharsch's When Did Wonderland End?  As in, no one on the internet?

What the hell.  I'm really not joking when I say it's one of the best songs I've ever heard.  But then again, no one seems to know Der Blutharsch except for this one girl whose shared library I listen to (how I discovered them).  This is a fact that makes me very sad.  I mean just look at this album cover.  Look at the awesome. 

They have albums called Track of the Hunted and Apocalyptic Climax II and When All Else Fails!  I seriously feel at home with them, in that really creepy way, you know, like Picnic at Hanging Rock home and The Serpent and the Rainbow home.  Speaking of zombies, my mother met a student while running the study abroad program in Malang who claimed to have met a zombie in Haiti.  That's crazy shit, but then again, Indonesians believe in little tiny vampires that are probably something like Fiji mermaids, but you never know with Indonesia.  Which is why the title of this post is what it is.  Who escapes hysteria by going to Borneo?  Borneo, home to the world's largest flesh-eating plant?  Who escapes hysteria by going anywhere in Indonesia?  Crazy people, that's who.  People who believe in zombies. 

Anyway, I'm going to do my best to transpose the lyrics, because I bought the song yesterday.

You come to me in the dead of night and I lay your dirty hands upon me
The blood ringing in my ears as you lay beside me now,
your stinking breath, smelling of death and regret
I want you more than I ever did before as I bleed for you
My desire for you is a curse, a scar, a wound which will not heal
I pray to God above to release me from this prison as I go down and I kneel
Your memory of the man I was before and the love I cannot feel
The night is closing in and I know man was born in sin
The woman screams and cries, freshly sees the murder in your eyes,
your journey through darkened skies, your adventure in blood and lies

I have no idea what this song is about, although I have my theories and they are all superlatively awesome.

Okay, speaking of Fiji Mermaids... WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS.  No, really.  He actually used a human corpse?  Jesus.  Yeah, no wonder, it's Mexico.  Sorry, Mexico.
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