Monday, July 26, 2010

A Short Trip Note

So I managed to stroll around the area much of The Warhol Economy describes. It's a cute neighborhood or cluster that makes the city magnet of the young creative people -- and of course a perfect place for a great coffee time talking about, for example, what Varvatos doing at the ex-place of CGBG?

But that's just one face of the City-- and I heard the truly striving creativity has been somehow moved across the tunnel to Williamsburg. The rent has just been unaffordable.

The other part is a place where probably has the world's highest the density of neon ad-lights per metre square. A classic tourist trap. But you may want to go there at 5.30 am to get different feel.

There when the neon light mixed with the early sunshine between skyscrapers and the Good Morning America does not event start yet, you may catch the glimpse of how NYC made of -- well, some of it. Trash collector truck, street vendor who sells coffee and the Times in that early hours, the City finest, and limousine driver in front of ABC studio --probably waiting for Sheryl Crow.

"Life in here is very regimented", said a parking attendant, "I want to move to South Carolina"

I guess he already said it twenty years ago, but somehow he's still there in the city that never sleeps -- even when Lehman Brothers across the street is no longer there.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Much comedic ado about nothing: FPI and the piggybanks - by Lynda Ibrahim

Hi, this interesting-as-usual piece by Lynda got into my inbox in the first weekend of the month. But I was off and so couldn't post it right away. My apologies to Lynda. But you readers can surely see, this juicy piece is worth the wait. Enjoy! -- Kate


I commenced the week rather ominously, broke a tooth while lunching on entirely harmless spaghetti. Gushing blood as scrambling to my car, I hit fence in swerving mad dash to the dentist. Dented tooth and dented car, a classic episode in accident-prone life dating back to my baby steps-- my parents barely bat an eye when their klutzy child arrived at their house for much-needed supply of TLC and soft foods. Just as well, since the week soon turned into a grander, free-for-all comedy, it got my mind off the painful root canal.

First, FPI, who has ran amok freely for many years, smashing people and properties left and right, tearing through Indonesia’s collective fabric of tolerance, while shamelessly borrowing God’s name for textbook thuggery, is finally facing its strongest opposition yet as legislators and activists are calling for its much-deserved demise. A legislator even publicly let out a suspicion, long-held public rumor I may note, of FPI’s all-powerful backing.

Heck! If it were up to gazillions concerned citizens like me, FPI would’ve been disbanded many moons ago, least of after they beastly attacked the pluralistic alliance peacefully rallying at Monas for minority Ahmadiyah sect on a sunny Sunday in 2008. Many were furious upon learning that, after largely went unpunished for ransacking bars and McDonald’s, baton-wielding FPI members were now chasing unarmed civilians including wheelchair-bound Mrs. Abdurrahman Wahid. Yet, few voiced their objections loudly. Perhaps fearing to be called heretics if seen standing against so-called defenders of religion in this piety-valued nation, or fearing FPI would come after them Mafia-style.

Thus, vigilante FPI thrived on. Halting church constructions? Dispersing group prayers and private in-house baptism? Generally getting offended at anyone or anything they mistakenly deemed as enemies of Islam? Majority floating mass remained silent.

Yet tide might turn as lately FPI started protesting against the traditional West Javanese attired Three Ladies statue in Bekasi, claiming a display of Christian trinity proselytizing tool, then barged in on public discussion attended by few legislators in a common restaurant, throwing outdated accusation of communism. While delivered menacingly the two shenanigans were stupendously ludicrous on so many levels that they were reduced to slapstick jokes that we could just openly laugh out loud at.

Either my eyes deteriorating or their delusion peaking, since after squinting for hours at variously-angled pictures of the statue, I still couldn’t see, for the life of me, any trace of Christian trinity. And it got more hilarious as the befuddled Balinese sculptor, called for comment, earnestly inquired what exactly a Christian trinity was. I’m waiting for FPI, any minute now, to swiftly calling the statue a projection of Hindu Trisula.

And as for the communism allegation, no doubt loosely based by one of the legislator’s father’s PKI past, were FPI sleeping through the ‘90s and missed the colossal crumbling of communism? Dude, if you gotta openly accuse someone, at least do it with flair and pick something sexy!

Then, another kind of hilarity unraveled, when the weekly Tempo published a controversial report on, as they titled it, fat bank accounts of high-ranking policemen.

While I won’t comment on the report’s content, I found hysterical this quaint notion that, upon publications of a considerably scandalous piece, a disturbed party would still bother to locate newspaper agents at such ungodly hour, while others were cheering on World Cup or devouring post-clubbing lamb fried rice, to shell out presumably hard-earned hard cash in a spectacularly futile attempt to evaporate the offending issue, considering that not only it’d fuel rumor mill further, the report could easily be accessed online in this digital age anyway. Moreover, some copyrights-ignorant schmucks would quickly make photocopies and retail them at every street corner, as they evidently did within hours after the magazine magically disappeared.

The cake on this klutzy comedy week, however, is won by the flaring verbal joust as National Police, exercising their rights notwithstanding, amid their 64th anniversary nonetheless, decided to sue Tempo, and here goes the kicker, for the cover illustration. Of all the flame generated by the 9-page reportage! For those who haven’t seen it, see attached the fussed-about cover of a man resembling uniformed police walking off three plump, perky, pink piggybanks on a leash. The spat in summary:

Police: Those pigs are an insult!
Tempo: They only depict piggybanks, really.
Police: But in this country, the ceramic vaults for kids to save pennies (celengan) are shaped like chicken, so the pigs are baseless and hence insulting!
Tempo: Well, if you want to go down that road, celengan is derived from the word celeng (slang for ‘pig’), anyway.
Writers: So, do we start translating celengan to chickenbank from now on? Or should someone consult the chickens first?

Happy anniversary to police corps! Along with sincere thanks for some hardwork that’s been delivered, I humbly remind here that trust must ultimately be earned. Corruption fight needs clearly measured results beyond agreeable magazine covers or disgruntled general singing like canary to media. And the longer you stand idly, the more thugs seizing control and robbing you off public trust. Please watch Alejandro Amenabar’s epic Agora-- see how the FPI-like parabalani eventually managed to publicly humiliated a lawful ruler by ordering him to physically kneel in submission. Not so funny anymore at that point eh, generals?

To the silent Indonesian mass, now that we’ve all had a good laugh, wake up! Indonesia is progressing, with long homework list. There are more pressing issues like crumbling school buildings, depleting ozone, hospitals for remote islands, teenage drugs, or city mass transportation. This busy, bustling democracy has no room for petty pimples like FPI.

To me a practicing Muslim, FPI was never defenders of Islam, and neither should you be manipulated nor keep your silence anymore! Islam’s image actually needs defense from their cheaply employing Islamic wardrobe and sacred terms, like Allahu Akbar, whenever they swing arms to hurt others. Seriously, watch Agora and see outnumbered academicians stood in Serapeum library, literally the last bastion of knowledge, as uncounted mob circling closely and pelting stones, then asked in eerie disbelief, “Since when they’ve become so many?”

They have become so many since we let them, filthy thugs in any coat, to exist for so long. It’s bloodier than a root canal, and that’s no comedy at all.

Jakarta, 4 July 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Whither Macroeconomics?

Yesterday, I went to the Second Story Secondhand Bookshop warehouse. The front store is located at Dupont Circle, but the warehouse Maryland, about one mile away from Ujang's apartment -- and he unbelievably has not came to that place yet :-D. It was not so much like The Strand of New York to find new books -- although they have some review copies --, but it's the place to look for some standard/classic off-print -- important stuffs that have been published in, say, the 80s or 90s.

Moreover, if you are a macro person, that's the place where you can still find a copy of Sargent-Wallace, or Tobin, books.

Looking at the economic section's shelf, it strikes me that the Reagan period (the late 70s and early 80s crisis) has produced substantial books on macro discussing the business cycles. It was a war between Lucas/Sargent/Wallace versus Solow/Tobin/Modigliani -- all are the giants of the professions. But the puzzle is that in recent crisis of the 2000s, macro people have been strangely silent. No books come out yet, so do the published article.

I mean, look at a series of respectable books on current crisis by Raghuram Rajan, Gary Gorton, and the likes. Mostly micro - with an exception of, probably, Shiller and Akerlof's Animal Spirit, which is, to me, more a sketch of reminder that uncertainty matters than a neat macro explanation on what is really going on.

Maybe macro people are truly caught on (and complacent about) the Great Moderation period, in which they think they knew how to tame business cycle -- and by that, leave the once a lively discussion on equilibrium, expectation, and market clearing process.

Is it the end of macroeconomics we at the Cafe used to know it? I don't know. But surely some books from macroeconomics perspective dealing with the latest crisis would help to confirm that macro is still able to generate ingenious ways of seeing things. The magic that in the past had been amazingly spelled out by Keynes, Friedman, Lucas, Tobin, and the likes.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Nothing, really

Hi, I am at the public library -- a great shelter to avoid scorching heat. Not much to tell lately. Everyone is into the World Cup -- the FIFA's World Cup as those TV anchors here call the event. Probably talking about the World Cup is of little use and value added because everyone has already had her/his own related info needed. This is four-yearly event when everyone can entitle themselves pundit, and everyone else don't care about such punditry nor the biases.

So really, this is a posting about nothing (to follow the abstract of a funny paper by Dixit)