Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Why old artists still hang around (and earn big)?

Recently I found this article showing top 25 earners of live concerts from 1990-2014. Old cracks dominate the list. All of them had their first album in the 1970s or 1980s (we didn't count Paul McCartney's Beatles years) except Coldplay (whose first album was in 2000). It implies that they continued to be actively touring for 30, 40 years.

One might guess that they earned most of it during the 1990s. Wrong. Even if we limit the observation to the 2000-2010 decade only, the list did not change much. It means the late comers like Beyonce, or Taylor Swift might earn big for a given year, and probably for years to come. But the old cracks are just not ready to retire.

On the other hand, the list missed the likes of Michael Jackson, whose last tour was in 1997 before he wrangled with law suits and health problems. Had the lists started five years earlier, he should have been there. Similarly, Guns N' Roses had long been absent due to break up and shake up. They did play under new line-ups during the 2000s, which were not enough to make them entering the list. But last year, their reunion made them second top earner behind Beyonce.

Some detailed observation on the list provide interesting variations. The top two, The Stones are U2, are quite alike; they played almost similar number of concerts, with almost similar audience and revenue per show. Bruce "The Boss" Springsteen, like Elton John, played in more but smaller concerts in terms of audience.

Only two artists - both are ladies - earned more than $100 per concert (sorry Roger Waters, you're just 3 cents short). Madonna, who performed less but earned more per concert. Celine Dion, who was the opposite, played in three times more concerts as Madonna, but the average audience was only a fifth.

Top 25 artists who earned the most from live shows, 1990-2014

No. Artist Gross revenue Attendance No. shows Average revenue Average attendance
1 The Rolling Stones $1,565,792,382 19,677,569 538 $79.57            36,575.4
2 U2 $1,514,979,793 20,536,168 526 $73.77            39,042.1
3 Bruce Springsteen $1,196,116,507 15,010,773 727 $79.68            20,647.6
4 Madonna $1,140,230,941 9,694,079 382 $117.62            25,377.2
5 Bon Jovi $1,030,082,884 12,333,668 578 $83.52            21,338.5
6 Elton John $786,791,043 12,164,513 956 $64.68            12,724.4
7 Dave Matthews Band $776,969,736 17,823,077 992 $43.59            17,966.8
8 Celine Dion $737,573,927 6,546,109 1,143 $112.67               5,727.1
9 Kenny Chesney $752,706,599 12,681,629 755 $59.35            16,796.9
10 The Eagles $702,110,908 7,720,760 484 $90.94            15,952.0
11 The Police/Sting $556,114,962 7,257,611 605 $76.63            11,996.1
12 Roger Waters $547,305,412 5,474,759 316 $99.97            17,325.2
13 Paul McCartney $505,534,809 5,248,175 220 $96.33            23,855.3
14 Billy Joel $499,978,726 10,408,169 577 $48.04            18,038.4
15 Rod Stewart $497,033,399 7,885,676 714 $63.03            11,044.4
16 Neil Diamond $465,448,371 8,870,666 643 $52.47            13,795.7
17 Metallica $432,816,245 8,388,374 468 $51.60            17,923.9
18 Aerosmith $417,573,638 8,405,069 582 $49.68            14,441.7
19 George Strait $405,034,063 9,736,580 584 $41.60            16,672.2
20 Jimmy Buffett $402,756,057 9,746,471 539 $41.32            18,082.5
21 Coldplay $378,359,252 5,394,616 315 $70.14            17,125.8
22 Toby Keith $361,256,245 8,608,696 711 $41.96            12,107.9
23 Cher $351,625,611 4,531,739 548 $77.59               8,269.6
24 Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks $349,906,931 4,906,995 483 $71.31            10,159.4
25 AC/DC $337,879,092 5,387,353 316 $62.72            17,048.6

So why do those old artists still actively touring? Hard to single out one reason. But given the big money involved in the live music industry, who could refuse a piece of the cake? Even just to make a one-time bang like Led Zeppelin, or a last goodbye like Motley Crue.

For some, like U2 or The Boss, they are still in the job market, producing new records. So perhaps for them, 2010s is just the new 1980s.

Other motives are hard to quantify, like connecting to fans, nostalgia, or else. But for The Stones, the youngest of them, Ronnie Wood is 70, the reason for hanging around should be a simple one: because they can.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Toilet news #235

I need to go to the toilet, she said. Sure, we have time. You can do it at the school as we drop the children, I replied.

But she refused. No way! I'm not gonna use school toilets! Kids toilets are a mess, don't you know that? Well, I said. There should be a guests toilet - or teachers toilet, right boys? Ugh, we're early, Dad, the front door might still be locked, responded one of the sons.

Alright, she said. Let's go to Coles. I know there's a clean toilet somewhere around it. It's only five minutes drive from here. I guess that's a better idea - I was gonna suggest peeing in the open, as I saw many bushes around the school yard, but I knew she would kill me.

Which all reminded me of this cool book about India. About why to some Indians, open defecation (not just peeing) is preferred to having latrines! About how it affects the underdevelopment in India (stunting and all). And about how they are related to the caste system.

And while still waiting for her, I remembered my paper too. In which I found that sanitation can be more critical than access to improved water facility in causing diarrhoea among children in Indonesia's less developed regions. One of the channels is .. open defecation. That is, even if your house has an improved water facility, if the toilet is poor, the chance of getting diarrhoea is high. And even if you have improved water resources and improved sanitation, but your neighbour defecate in the open (and your children play in that neighborhood and, as children do, forget to wash their hands properly), the odds of having diarrhoea is still high.

She's back.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Understanding today's music industry

Can’t recall when was the last time I blogged here. 2010? 2011? If I was to write a piece on music industry then, the view would be gloomy. Something like “the industry is dying”, “digital piracy is killing music”. Just look at this graph (credit to IFPI) :

The industry’s total revenue experienced a free-fall since 2000 – right, the MP3, Napster, peer sharing, piracy fiasco we heard back then. The free-fall stopped around 2010. It hasn’t been bouncing back, but the bottom may have been reached.

Remember that in 1980 The Buggles said video killed the radio stars? In fact, 1980 was just a beginning of the golden era of music industry. (And it was video – VHS and Betamax – who disappeared, not radio). So perhaps today we see another turning point, not a decline, in the industry.

Streaming and the importance of sunk cost

Looking closer at the data, it’s clear that digital music, which caused the decline at first, has given the industry a lifeline. Digital music came in various forms: paid downloads (like iTunes), subscription service (Apple Music, premium Spotify), or on-demand streaming (YouTube, free Spotify). In 2015, the combination of all digital music overtook revenue from physical sale (which has been helped by a curious come back of vinyl records). In addition, revenue also comes from live performances and royalties from movie or game soundtracks (which helps Led Zeppelin or AC/DC enjoy a brief popularity among teenagers).

Of digital music, paid download was popular until a couple years ago. But streaming has increased, and now makes up more than half of digital music revenue in the US. Technology explains part of this – thanks to better internet connection and compression technology, streaming is much better today.

Pricing is another. Subscription price means I only need to care about my fixed cost (or, sunk cost), not the marginal one.  This is a new way of enjoying music. Back then, when I want to own Skid Row’s first album, I paid Rp5000 (guess what year was that) for 10 songs, of which I liked only 4 or 5. Then I need to think, should I pay another Rp5000 for Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth, in which I only enjoy 2 songs. What if I don’t like the albums after all? What if I get bored after a month? Subscription service made my life easier.  I only need to think of paying once a month to have a huge range of options of music I want to listen to, or don’t want to.

Like gym membership years back, looks like subscription-based pricing will be our new norms for many things. It means our decision will be driven more by sunk costs rather than marginal costs. (Free streaming service is basically the same, unless someone pays our bill in the form of ads).

Complicated royalty scheme

For artists, things look a bit more complicated. In the old days, for every $18 wepurchased on a CD, around $10 went to labels (for their marketing, production, distribution, and profits), $5 for retailers (most of them are now out of business), $3 for the artist, and $1 for the songwriter. Yes, if you’re an artist-writer, then you got $4. You got the revenue when I the CD, and not need to bother when will I actually listen to your song and for how many times.

It’s similar under paid download scheme. If I download Adele’s single from iTunes for $1.29, I paid Apple 30 cents, and Sony 90 cents. Sony will then pay 8 cents in songwriting royalty to Adele and her co-author. Adele will get another payment from Sony an artist, depends on whatever mentioned in the contract, which ranges around 12-20 percent of sales.

Streaming service is much less straight forward. Every time I listen to a song, artist will get something. But it depends on certain algorithm like artist rate, region, streaming time (prime or non-prime time). For one stream, an average song generates $0.005 to $0.008, which will be split between the artist, songwriter, and the label/management. An indie band revealed, after their songs were streamed for 1 million times, their payment was less than $5000. Just calculate how many streams it takes for Beyonce who earned $1.9 million from streaming in 2016.

Live performance makes artists still alive

One thing is still a puzzle for me. According to an industry report, digital music accounted for 50% revenue in 2016, while performance rights (including live shows) accounted for 14%. But for top artists, streaming is only a small fraction of their earnings stream. Top earners got 90% or more from performing live. Even physical sales still generated more than streaming.

So who earned from streaming?

My hypothesis: digital music helps many non-major, independent musicians to sell their pieces. Top artists still dominate all revenue sources, for sure. But the digital space is so huge with fewer middlemen, so smaller artists can be part of the game. There was only small space in Aquarius Mahakam and Duta Suara for non-label artists, think about the old days. In a way, this may be a good thing.  

Live shows have also been the way for old artists to stay in the game. Last year’s topearner may be Beyonce. But guess who others on the list? Guns N’ Roses and Bruce Springsteen. They may not catch up with newer artists in terms of streaming and record sales, but their revenue from live performances lifted them to the second and third place. Similarly in 2015, The Rolling Stones, Billy Joel and Grateful Dead were side-by-side with One Direction and Taylor Swift in the top earner list, thanks to their live concerts.

So what’s next?

We are still in the middle of disruption process, so hard to draw the conclusion for now. Streaming, like smartphone is today, but may not be tomorrow’s game.

Music may be surviving in terms of sales and revenue. But is the quality improving? Some are complaining that today’s pop music has less variation (meaning they all sound alike), indicating lower creativity. Yeah, maybe no one wants to be Genesis anymore, producing 30-minute tracks.

The role oflabels, and today’s marketing channels are other questions for next articles (maybe). And of course, understanding the Indonesian context. For now, it’s too much already for an economist of jaman old trying to understand jaman now.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Negative externality of racist campaign

Illustration: two candidates, A and B, were campaigning for an office. They needed to get votes from 16 percent of population -- the swing voters coming from the first-round election. Candidate A's strategy was to play racism and bigotry card against the B. Candidate B decided to face it one-on-one by playing pluralism card. Both are rational. You can even assume that neither of them are actually racist nor bigot by heart.

Candidate A won the election as apparently voters bought the racism and bigotry card he played. Some commentators also believed that candidate B's strategy for directly confronting the racism card is the reason he lost the election. Nonetheless in a relatively competitive election, this is the equilibrium of the number of voters for each candidate and the quantity of racist and bigot campaign. The voters have spoken. But is this a socially optimal outcome?

If you believe that racism and bigotry are not `bad', then it is optimal. And you can skip the rest of this posting.

If you believe that racism and bigotry are `bad' -- something like pollution--,  then it is not socially optimal. We have a case of negative externality: candidate A, the producer of racist campaign, while maximising his private benefit against cost in a competitive political market, massively failed to take into account the social cost of doing it. As a result, he over-produced racist campaign.

To fix the problem, the social cost of racist campaign needs to be `internalized' to the private cost-benefit calculus of the candidate. One way is by asking government to step in by imposing tax or anti-racism regulation. But here, in this case, it might not be applicable: the candidates ran for the very government position, while at the same time people in the government are part of the game

So we need to take a different approach: when market fails, use more market. We can try to link the current political market to other markets - say, the next presidential election market or even just a market for `(urban cosmopolitan) educated social club membership' -  where our candidate is also aspiring to be. The idea is to make the candidate pay the full price for playing racism card by explicitly internalize the social cost he incurred into his private cost structure in these other linked-markets.

This might work or not work, but what I fail to comprehend is some pundits' post-election suggestion to help (subsidize?) the producer of racist campaign to get away with the allegation of being racist under disguise of repairing the election damage. First, it would even more externalize the social cost from the private cost-benefit structure of the candidate. Second, it would create a moral hazard among other aspiring politicians to play the same dirty tricks. In the end, we will see more of `bad' in the air, not less.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How to (mis)use econometrics

Apparently these two pieces of writing (in Indonesian) on LGBT and economic growth hit the nerves of those who have taken at least elementary econometrics course - and/or have been associated with the School. I could not blame them, they have all the reasons to get really annoyed by such sloppy regression analysis.

Take this bit directly from the second article above:
Korelasi menunjukkan arah, sementara regresi menunjukkan hubungan fungsional antar variabel.
Correlation shows the direction [RS: of changes between two variables, perhaps], while regression shows functional relationship between variables.
Wait. Simply running regression would not tell you why the 1 percent increase in defunct economists' access to Facebook leads to 2 percent increase in the ignorance of practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence (HT: J.M. Keynes, circa 1936).

Regression per se will not provide you with a meaningful functional relationship. For that, you need a convincing and logically consistent story line - a theory, on which your empirical model is based. Isn't it just stating the obvious, you say? Yes, of course. First week of Method 101.

But maybe the author thinks that he has a story on how government inclination or support to LGBT leads to slower economic growth [RS: not sure if it's a level or growth effect, but never mind]. Here is what I found in the first writing:
... kecenderungan LGBT yang semakin besar di sebuah negara akan berdampak kepada kondisi kependudukan yang memburuk. Hal ini dapat dijelaskan dari fakta terang benderang bahwa pasangan LGBT tidak dapat menghasilkan keturunan .... Kondisi kependudukan yang memburuk tersebut pada gilirannya akan menghambat ekonomi untuk terus tumbuh.
... growing LGBT population in a country would deteriorate its demographic situation. This can be explained by the crystal-clear fact that LGBT couple can not reproduce... This demographic deterioration, in turn, will prevent the economy to grow.
So I WhatsApp our certified labor economist in the house, barista Ujang, to send me the main literature on the determinants of fertility.

He replied right away and emailed me two major references in the profession: Hotz et.al, 1997,  The Economics of Fertility in Developed Countries (.pdf), and Schultz, 2007, Fertility in Developing Countries (.pdf).

My reading: first, theories, models, and empirical strategies to identify and estimate the determinants of fertility are anything but simple nor easy. Second, there is no discussion on LGBT factor as determinant of fertility rate - if you want to put LGBT into the equation, you have a lot to explain.

OK, fine. With a controversial finding, maybe we can look at the data now?

Unfortunately, it is available either only in a certain office room in Depok and/or if you are willing to co-(re)write the paper -- despite, somehow, the regression results are already widely circulated.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

HDL Cholesterol in What?

Once in a while, you come across a figure in an article that, if you see it without knowing the context, would baffle you to no end.

Here's one. "HDL Cholesterol in Male Baboons and British Male Civil Servants"

What journal? What discipline? What is it about?

Ungated link to the paper here.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Jokowi's first error? - Aco

Finally. So grateful that we have Jokowi as the president-elect. Selamat, Pak!

Now, he is assembling his new cabinet. Strangely, however, he is crowd-sourcing it, using online polling. (To be fair, it's not really crowd-sourcing, as presumably he will still have the final say). 

And the social media embraces this PR gimmick so happily: "Oh, this is the first president who crowd-source his cabinet assembly. Cool!" - and many other similar comments to that effect.

Is this actually a good thing? I don't think so. Picking ministers is president's prerogative, as the polling says in its intro. Correct. But, the intro continues, "that does not mean the people cannot participate". Wait a minute. Sounds nice, but Pak Jokowi is actually creating an unnecessary problem here. If he has to listen to what people say for every decision he makes, it is not difficult to imagine that this new administration will walk like a tortoise onward. Not only that, he is offering a precedence. The next time he needs to make other decisions, the same people might as well demand a poll. Crowdsource is good. But not always.

An analogy might be useful. One thing that you expect from a CEO is the ability to make strategic decision (of course, decision can be wrong, that's a risk). But does he or she have to consult all the stakeholders for every decision? Does s/he have to ask the opinion of each and every employee when s/he want to appoint in manager in the office?  

Dear Pak Jokowi, just pick your aides. We trust you. And yes, we will keep criticising you - and your cabinet for that matter.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

RIP: Gary Becker

I don't really recall it, maybe sometime in the late 1990s, that my co-barista here, AP, bragged about showed me a book he just read: The Economics of Life. It took me another few years to get my own copy while visiting another co-barista, Aco, in Urbana-Champaign, and that's my first introduction to the work of Gary Becker.

And, believe it or not, it was not a smooth sailing. Partly because I was still persuaded by some leftists ideals, partly because I was not familiar to the first world problems discussed in the book (such as baseball), and partly, probably the most important reason, because I still did not really get what economics is all about.

Until I read The Economic Approach to Human Behavior (1976).

Eleven pages Introduction of the book is really an eye-opener to me, who had been doing economics for some time without being fully aware of the methodological very basis of the discipline: maximizing behavior, market equilibrium, and stable preference.

Then I took a course on Economics of Non-Market Behavior taught by one of Becker's favorite students, Larry Iannaccone. There, I read lots of Becker's work and learned to develop intuitions to see any human behavior or social patterns using economic approach i.e price theory. For a class assignment, I remember trying to propose topic on why people believed in rainmaker (i.e shamanism) and a classmate pondered why many New Yorkers love dogs.

Reading Beckerian economics feels like that you're given a lightsaber to deal with various social issues. Not everybody on the other side will be happy with that, but it's a powerful tool nonetheless. It also helps you a lot to be a well-reasoned social commentator. Although not necessarily makes you the most popular person in a cocktail party, it helps you to actually take side on things (read: policy issues) consistently. Personally, it really provides me with a solid framework to discern seemingly messy and complex social issue and human behavior.

Now, to bring it closer to home, too often our economists and/or economic commentators in the country too easily depart from economic approach in their analysis -- if they ever held it once. It might just show a sign of intellectual laziness or simply ignorance for basic tenets of economics, namely basic price theory derived from three axioms above. But either way, it's a pity. What else we can expect most from a person trained in economics if not an economic analysis?

Instead, oftentimes what we see is an economic analysis that never was. Following Beckerian revolution (some say imperialism), it is inevitable that economist discusses social issues. But it is of little use if she/he does it without applying his/her economic approach and, god forbid, resorts to normative analysis. Becker himself, after laid down his economic approach, carried on to demonstrate how to do it on issues such as crime, addiction, fertility, discrimination, etc.

I often get impressions that these "economists", after presumably going through those curves and math in the classrooms, do not seem to get that "...economics is not a field of inquiry, but rather a method of analysis..". Their comments on various social issues reflect very little, if any, their educational background.

Even worse many of them trade their hard-earned economic tools and skills for populism.

This may indicate a deeper problem: our economics education failed to equip students with the lingua franca of the profession. No, it is not the math (although that is, too), but the language of basic price theory and the economics of incentives (Heckman, 2011). As a result, first, we can not communicate clearly with economists at the frontier of the field and/or follow large bodies of latest development in the profession. Second, in communicating with non-economist, we do not sound like an economist.

But anyway, RIP Prof. Becker. And thanks for the lightsaber.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Apakah depresiasi nilai tukar riil (real exchange rate) Rupiah dapat membantu mengurangi defisit transaksi perdagangan (trade balance)?

Apa relevansinya? Teorinya adalah nilai tukar riil mencerminkan harga relatif produk Indonesia terhadap produk negara-negara lainnya. Mudahnya, nilai tukar riil adalah nilai tukar nominal dikalikan harga produk negara-negara lain relatif terhadap harga produk Indonesia. Maka nilai tukar riil akan melemah (depresiasi) jika nilai tukar nominal melemah (seperti belakangan ini) atau harga produk Indonesia bersaing dibandingkan harga produk negara lainnya. Sebaliknya nilai tukar riil akan mengalami penguatan (apresiasi) jika nilai tukar nominal menguat (seperti Rp lari ke 8,000/USD) atau harga produk Indonesia mahal dibandingkan harga produk negara lainnya (seperti apel China yang lebih murah dari apel Malang bahkan di kota Malang sendiri).

Dalam literatur, penurunan nilai tukar riiil dianggap bisa membantu mengurangi defisit transaksi perdagangan (atau bahkan transaksi berjalan/current account) jika apa yang disebut "Marshal-Lerner condition" terpenuhi. Yakni jika kenaikan permintaan ekspor dan penurunan permintaan impor terjadi lebih besar dari depresiasi nilai tukar riil.

Memang, keluhannya adalah dalam periode awal penurunan nilai tukar riil, transaksi perdagangan bisa saja tetap defisit karena impor tidak bisa gampang digantikan oleh produk lokal sementara ekspor perlu waktu. Fenomena ini yang disebut dengan J-Curve

Apaka J-Curve berlaku untuk Indonesia? Karena tidak ada akses terhadap computable general equilibrium model (buatnya mahal dan rumit dengan resiko salah yang tinggi), saya gunakan vector autoreggresive (VAR) dengan error correction terhadap data bulanan dari 1999 - 2013. Dependent variables dari VAR ada dua, nilai tukar riil yang saya unduh dari situs web Bank of International Settlement (BIS) dan transaksi perdagangan dari BPS. Saya juga sertakan harga minyak mentah dunia untuk mengendalikan pengaruhnya terhadap tekanan defisit transaksi migas.

Hasilnya? J-Curve diperkirakan juga berlaku di Indonesia seperti yang ditunjukkan oleh gambar di bawah.

{Secara teknis saya run impulse response function yang praktis adalah impact multiplier dari sistem persamaan VAR}

Depresiasi nilai tukar riil Rupiah awalnya memperburuk transaksi perdagangan karena impor tidak serta-merta turun dan permintaan ekspor tidak langsung meningkat. Tetapi sejalan dengan waktu, permintaan ekspor meningkat. Coba saja cek toko-toko mebel di Kemang, mereka panen pesanan. Juga permintaan sepatu, produk otomotif, makanan dsb dari Indonesia meningkat. Sementara, permintaan impor melemah karena makin mahal, sehingga dampak positif terhadap transaksi perdagangan mulai terlihat (gambar di bawah). J-Curve sepertinya menyentuh limit threshold (batas). Sepertinya memang tidak semua impor bisa diganti dengan produk lokal sementara ekspor yang berdaya saing juga tetap memerlukan komponen impor (contoh gampangnya membuat IPhone China harus impor komponen dari berbagai negara).
Implikasinya? Biarkan depresiasi nominal Rupiah sendirinya membantu mengoreksi transaksi perdagangan melalui depresiasi riil nilai tukar. Intervensi untuk mengatur ekspor dan impor hanya akan menimbulkan inefisiensi. Kedua, jika ingin Rupiah tidak terlalu lemah tetapi transaksi berjalan tidak defisit, mau tidak mau kita harus perbaiki daya saing produk Indonesia - sayangnya ini gampang dibicarakan tapi sulit dilakukan. 

Sunday, February 09, 2014

RIP: Thee Kian Wie, True Scholar

Pak Thee Kian Wie was my role model for a good economist.

First of all, he published articles in international journals. A lot of articles. His primary expertise is in economic history and his PhD dissertation is on plantation in East Sumatra in the 1863-1942. He also wrote books on the making of Indonesian economy - from the colonial period to independence. A rare breed of economic historian in the economic profession, even rarer in Indonesia.

I read a lot of his works on industrialization and industrial policy in Indonesia. Pak Thee's personal access to the technocrats and at the same time his distance to power circle and bureaucracy makes his works not only instructive but also credible. Pak Thee, from his writings, was very aware of all political economy constraints and contestation at the time. He witnessed and reported the making of Indonesia miracle between 1970-1998 -- in increasing alarm in later years.

I actually wish that Pak Thee wrote more on how then up-to-date "(economic) ideas" were introduced and translated into Indonesian economic policymaking. Nevertheless, anyone wants to know how industrialization was planned and worked/did not work as intended in Indonesia shall read his papers and books.

Yet, one of his important work after the 1998 crisis is his essays on development, freedom, and New Order miracle (Pembangunan, Kebebasan, dan Mukjizat Orde Baru).

Apparently influenced by Amartya Sen, Pak Thee re-evaluated Indonesian economic "miracle" and reflected that, if I don't misread his writing, while the economic progress was real, there should have been more attention and work (read: government policies) to deal with freedom, inequality, and injustice. Probably not a strong statement for those who want a clear-cut verdict on the regime, but Pak Thee clearly went through a deep thinking and contemplation, with a tingle of regrets, before coming to this conclusion.

But above all, Pak Thee was a wonderful person. Anyone who ever came across him can attest how humble he was, considering his high scholarly credential.

Pak Thee once told me that while he was visiting Sussex University, he often commuted to London to see art performances. "I bought kelas kambing (cheapest) ticket for the shows", he added. It turns out that living in a "relative poverty" -- late Professor Sadli's term to describe his choice for living as a researcher under government payroll -- did not prevent him to become a true cosmopolitan.

He also once let me know, without a slightest hint of irony, that his son (I did not know Marcel Thee and Sajama Cut at that time) is a musician and makes a lot more money than him.

We will sorely miss you, Pak Thee.