Saturday, August 11, 2007


:// Poise

Seven days ago I was close to the centre. Was moving with power. I could trust my intutition, my mind was working in that zone where the gap between thought and action is almost non-existent. Tapped into that roiling mass of subconscious wordplay, synapses skipping with power of metonymy and metaphor. The power of logos. The left-brain creative function. There is somehting about this particular brain fuction, the one I guess responsible for crafting narrative, receiving sense data and making “sense” of it, making meaning from it. Ownership and mastery of this capacity seems to be the key to receive what is, accept, and ask the question “Why this?”“Why this here?” Not with a backward looking glance, not with a desire to look back for the reasons behind something but to initiate the creative incorporation of the thing into ones own narrative flow.

If there is anything I feel I have learnt this trip it is a greater understanding of self as a point of agency, as a centre of choice. My sense of self is directly related to my capacity to regcognise a decisional point and take action. Recognition and action. Awareness and...


When my mind is working at peak capacity it is answering the call of intuition at a phenomenal rate –recognising prompting of my intuition, and acting upon it without hesitation, delay or second-guessing. In this mode it feels like the whole universe is conspiring with me to co-author reality. I experience it as a melding of self-interest and the chaos of the universe, a collaboration between the order my mind would seek to impose on the chaos of the universe and and the chaos itself, such that the finished product bares the mark not only of my own personal will but also that of the universe’s. The finished product lies somewhere short of the preconceived ideal but is all the better for containing the random error or flaw with in it. It is is in the falling short of the ideal, that ingenuity enters into an act and transforms is from an act of reproduction into an act of creation. At its best it the act feels effortless, as if I was standing still to allow the Universe (capital‘U which is the word that we who once believed in capital ‘G’God use when that particular word is sticking in our craw) to flow through. The satisfaction derived from such an act and outcome is immense. It is the feeling of having been part, but not in control, of a process that is bigger than self – trancendence, in a word.

There should be something in here – that quote from Leonard Cohen- about the best songs being found at the moment of falling short of of a point of aspiration. The best bits are always in the coda.


The necessary precondition to receiving the call of intuition seems to be poise. In Blindness, Jose Saramago writes that “nerves were not of the devil, nerves were the devil". Nerves are the triumph of irrationality and fear over rationality and poise. Rationality is the child of poise. Rationality allows the human mind the possibility of both logos (reason) and metaphor – the twin fruits of the Word. Plato, fond as he was of reason, had about as much time for metaphor as he did for the poets who wielded it. Metaphor, with its ability to confound reason and tap the vein of divine madness from which profundity and pith fall freely from the cosmos, had no place in Plato’s world of calm rationality. Where reason as logos runs in a few set, pre-determined directions metaphor runs out along the synapses in all directions opening up vistas of imagination in a way that logos just cannot. I guess if one includes mathematical functions logos is given a wider repetoire but is still no match for the abundance of metaphor (association, connotation).

:/ Travel and the Word

To travel in Indonesia this time around has been distressing. More particularly, travelling as a backpacker. Moving quickly from place to place, quick transactions, the endless outflow of money, the unsatisfyingly inhuman economic transactions. The extended period of feeling beheld by those around you as a nothing more than a source of income, an economic resource to be exploited, while understandable, is nonetheless tiring. It takes a fair degree of presence and imagination to remain open to the universe and to fellow human beings when each beckoning gesture is followed shortly by a request for money of some sort. The economic pressure on Indo’s backpacker trail is hard on the soul. An unavoidable reality of being a fast moving traveller through a country full of people going slowly. In the battle of interests that is each economic negotiation, the position of traveller is a strange one of both (assumed, implied) privilege and precarioness. A kind macro level upper hand but micro level vulnerability – an unfamiliarity with the lay of the land, and imperfect access to channels of information. The hawkers, becak drivers, prostitutes, and the rest have poise, inside information and, most importanltly, time on their side.

The feeling of being gazed upon, sized up, has gotten to me this time around.

Also for some reason. The language of which my fluency used to be such a source of pleasure and pride has become a straight-jacket for a personality that has outgrown its capacity in recent years. New wine in old wine skins. The freedom of self-expression allowed by English only serving to heighten my sense of alienation from this society….Trying to fit back into a persona of tentativeness and deference that can stray into unchecked syncophancy…slave to the debilitating need to get the language right.



:// to be overcome by circumstance

“Suntuk” is an one of those perculiar Malay words without a particularly good English cognate. Its meaning hovers uncertainly between “stressed” and “dopey”and makes me think of the hand motion that sometimes accompanies it. Thumb tucked under palm. Four fingers pointed and pulsing at one’s forehead,
“Don’t be surprised to see us Acehnese sitting here drinking coffee and smoking in the middle of the day. Sometimes its better to just get out of the office and drink coffee than anything else”. I heartly agree. It is a motto that I have chosen to live much of life by, something vaguely resembling the Hippocratic oath of “First do no harm.” If you’re not with it, best leave well alone and have a coffee, read the paper, and then come back and do what little rearranging of material objects that you really need to when you’re feeling more with it.

Banda Aceh has a feeling of impermanence which is fair enough given most of it was wiped into the sea less than 3 years ago. But it’s not just the ramshackle buildings, the cheap paint jobs, there is something in the architecture that is functional but no more. It is an aesthetic born of wanting to go lie back down as quickly as possible.

I saw two guys today squatting on their haunches chipping away at a concrete storm drain, casual as you like. They were still at when I passed by hour later. Casual as you like. Santai. “Its hot” says the Padang restarant owner. I don’t know where he finds the time to comment on the weather. Or the energy. Best stay in doors. In Lampung my host family stayed in doors for two weeks becaue it was raining. In these small things, an attitude of concession to the forces of nature of a magnitude that i had forgotten existed.

Flying into BA last week I was sat next to ‘Mike’ a Kiwi building contractor, with an expertise in logistics. I gauged that Mike was a man of bricks and mortar, of permanence. You would expect a logistics man to be good at moving material objects through timespace. He clearly dealt in things you could drop on your foot. Presently he was occupied with the challenge of sourcing reliable-quality cement from China. Having done his homework it seems that this option will prove cheaper and less hassle than sourcing it from domestic suppliers. “I can order the stuff from suppliers in Jakarta, but none of it is palletised. It just gets dumped into the hold. By the time it reaches port in BA half of it is water damaged. And they'll try on anything. Double invoicing, under supplying, diluting the product...

“The corruption is built into the very walls."

There is an Indonesian saying or 'peribahasa' that runs “Cari Kesempatan dalam Kesempitan”. It translates figuratively as an imperative to“look for opportunity in crisis.” In Indonesian it plays on the phonetic similarity between the root words ‘sempat’meaning ‘chance’ and ‘sempit’ meaning’ ‘narrow’. A more literal translation of the proverb would be “to seek opportunity in a tight squeeze”. (K. reckons I should get that tattooed over the fissure of my arse but I have reservations about turning my flesh into a giant ass-rape joke). In the spirit of the proverb, locals in BA have rushed to get their portion of the $4 billion wave of post-tsnumai aid money that has washed into the province and may well wash right out again as quick as it came.

They should never have promised houses, says D. It was all wrong, the NGOs are out of there depth. 50,000 were supposed to be built last year and they plan another 50-100,000 this year. They've got themselves into a snarled mess of lost documents and salt-watered title deeds. A hundred and fifty thousand people clammering for houses and more coming up across the border from Medan. Suntuk man.

Meanwhile the NGO’s have buised themselves scrambling for the currencies of ‘visiability’and mediaspace. The tussle is as much about hoarding the precious capital of ‘profile’ as it is about recognition for current work. They have (to surrender to contemporary management speak) identified their ‘core capacitivy’ and decided that it’s fundraising. They are now competing in the West’s crowded marketplace of image. When you're selling a homogenous commodity like pity, differentiation on the basis of brand image is all you’ve got.

Seems it has to be the right kind of visability though. No one wants to be visible when the question arises as to why, three years after the event, people are still waiting for houses.

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R. and T. and Yusri B. at AIYEP reunion Feb'07

Monday, January 30, 2006

Coppin it sweet up the ADFA

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

why neoclassical economics 3000 beautiful words

So...i think i can give this whole academic caper up. happened upon this essay - - by edward fullbrook on google whilst looking up definitions of the word 'intrasubjectivity"...(y'know 'to google' has entered the english vocab but i reckon their should be a word that refers to online happenstance occuring when googling for something else.)

anyway this guy pretty much says exactly whay i want to one day be able to say in response to everything i have been taught about neoclasscal economics. but he has said it already. so i should just go and play guitar. turns out the problem with neoclassical economics is descartes. i supected as much.

dutch postcards from the early 20th century that i think are neat

Here are some beautiful bits of 20th century dutch poster art. know very little about art and design, but something about - what is deco, tourist bureau kitsch...just gets me going. got them off my supervisor Paul who scanned them from postcards he got in amsterdam. have printed a couple off nice and big on hideously expensive photo paper. gonna stick 'em up on walls to drive away the demons of the military issue beige bunker decor that i've been staring at for the last 2 weeks.

Monday, January 23, 2006

static in the ear tonight

have been reading blogs and blogs. english blogs indonesian blogs. and after a while all i can hear is static. the era of interactive new media is heralded as the beginning of a new age in which the intensity of human interaction increases across the globe, and perhaps also amongst existing communities within established national boundaries. this should allow greater cross fertilization of ideas, and lead to a fluorescence of scientifc and cultural progress...a new renaissance if you will.

but i dunno. i'm not wholly convinced. i'm a little undecided as to whether the rate of human progress is largely determined by the intensity of the global human conversation...when all most of us have to say, is "hey how you going, will be in Melbourne later this week, wann catch up". i mean the argument has a lot going for it, if we all put our minds together, keep yammering back and forth to each other, faster and faster ...surely we'll arrive at new points of consensus, find ways over those epistemic stumbling blocks Foucalut talks about alot quicker....come to a new consensus and then move on. the interenet just allows us to pool our collective consciounesss and move forward faster.... okay.

but what if the key to human progress (if you're still wont to believe in such a thing - the the ideals of the enlightnemoent projetc...namely that throuh appliaction of our human reason we can transform ourselves, and our environment to progress across technological and moral plains)...but what if the key factor in determing the rate of scietinfic and moral/cultural progress is not from the intensity of interaction betwee the bulk of humanity but from the existence of a few isoloate loners, idoit savants and dreamers who are cut of from the general discourse, isolated, quarantined such that they are able to revision a whole paradigm...see the weak link right at the base of the curret episteme, and call it...thus pulling the rug right out from under all of the rest of us who are busy stuttering static into one another's ears along with hackneyed reassurances that the wrold really is the way we think it is.

Wot i mean is, would Isaac Newton have happened upon Newtonian physics if he'd had a billion bloggers yelling in his ear. or did his insight come from being the loner in the pack? Likewise Einstein...didn't he benfit from sitting alone in that patent office rather than attending conferences attended by the opinionated established figures of physics at the time. is their such thing as too much interaction when it comes to developing and refining ones' own scientific or artistic vision.

Cross-fertilisation is one way think of it but it could be equally termed 'contamination', surely.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

toe in the water

so. am beginning research paper on the nature of blogs all they mean for the future of interactive media technology. occurs to me that i can't very well write on the phenomenon without having a go. seems a bit gutless to stand on the sidelines simply observing.

so....this is the a start. have many reservations about the self-aggrandizing, vanity issues involve in self-publsihing thoughts, etc online. and obviously will be doing battle with my own demons and insecurities around putting myself out there for anyone to read. i'm not sure how this writing to a nondescript, general audience is going to work out either. but for the sake of plugging in to the collective consciousness i'm willing to give it a go. chocks away to mix some metaphors.

will for now retain the safety of the pseudonym.