When ATMs Attack, or, How Things are Going in Depok/Jakarta

I’ll be going back to Jakarta tomorrow because a certain ATM has decided to swallow my Samsung Card (a credit card) and not spit it  out again. Put the card in the machine, watch it  crash, watching Windows reboot (with the Diebold brand name proudly displayed, of course!)… quite a sad sight.

The first time it happened was a week ago, and I thought it was a freak accident. Turns out, no, not at all. Samsung Cards crash BNC ATM machines in Jakarta, it seems. Or at least, at the mall I was at.

Other than that, things are going swimmingly. I’m not getting as much work done as I imagined, but I’m getting more reading, relaxing, enjoyment, and even good food than I had imagined, so it all works out. But The Unfortunate Freelance Project I Should Have Turned Down has finally reared its head again to ruin my week. Thank goodness the deadline is the 22nd — it’ll be over and done with soon.

On the brewing side, I have been doing some research in my hunt to find a way to make some version of Finnish sahti, the traditional Finnish beer made with rye and juniper twigs and berries.I don’t know if I can get whole rye, instead of just flour, but it turns out there is a Chinese species of juniper that grows in some parts of Korea, especially Ulleung-do. Sounds like a nice excuse for a trip out there, I guess, if I can’t find samples of Chinese juniper more readily. Something to do on some weekend in the spring, I suppose!

I’m almost done my historical research on Burma (and about to move on to Thai history, and a marvelous book I have on hand here) and I have a short story on which I am working now — a moment of violent decolonization between two radically different societies in a fantastical world. (For those who have read and critiqued “Neither Ynga Nor Kho,” that’s the story I’m on about.) I’ve also been trying to work on my rewrite of a shaggy dog story, the one which was my Week 2 story at Clarion West, involving talking sentientized dogs, but the redraft I attempted last ended up way too dark and apocalyptic, missing much of the human insight and compassion I liked about the original story. We’ll see if I get around to a rewrite this holiday, though: I think the sooner I restart work on A Killing in Burma, the better!

Ah, a word about bookstores in Jakarta.I’ve noticed a few odd things about them. For one, the default speculative fiction genre seems to be fantasy, followed by horror and  mystery. SF just ain’t big here, at least not in the English bookshops or English sections of boookshops I’ve visited. Used books sections are interesting, too, and inevitably have one or two space opera novels mixed in among a number of fantasy novels. Japanese manga and western comics and graphic novels seem about equally popular. But there are some odd things I’ve noticed, too: one is that every English-language bookstore or section seems to have way more books about American politics with a clear and obvious right-wing slant than one might imagine, a ton of business, management, and CEO-ish type books, and there is almost always also a “Christian Books” section —  I’ve yet to see a section on Islam, but I’ve seen plenty of “Christianity” sections. It’s very odd. My guess is that a lot of the people reading books in English here are either foreign businesspeople (and yes, I dare imagine much of the American part of the international business community here is made up of right-wingers), and also that the religion of choice among Sino-Indonesians has been Christianity. They are the proverbial rich class here, or so is the popular perception — and having visited a couple of Chinese neighborhoods in Jakarta, the houses are frighteningly fancy, indeed — and they’re also the most crazy about learning and mastering English. Still, it’s quite odd.

Oh, and I got what looks like author-autographed copy of Timothy Findley’s novel Pilgrim for five bucks at a shopping mall in Depok, just outside Jakarta. Talk about bizarre. Therewere a few other CanLit books there, too, conspicuously. Canadian expat who stayed long enough to dump the collection? Who knows…

Meanwhile, I just got news that a committee will be meeting next week and among the things being discussed will be the question of whether my professional publications can be accepted as “publications” in terms of the academic publishing requirements, given the fact I am, after all, a Creative Writing major and my training is in this area. (I raised the question in my “suggestions” for the academic evaluations process, which I couldn’t enter into the system because it’s basically the worst user interface I’ve ever encountered, is all in Korean, and only works on Windows. Even the Korean who was helping me was horrified  by the webpage and threw hands up in surrender after a little while.) I have no idea whether the recognition of my publications will happen, and feel somewhat doubtful, but it would be nice, and it’s cool that my department head is at least going to bat for me on this.

On my end, I’ve been scrambling to provide documentation for her to bring to the meeting next week. If anyone out there has a copy of either Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best Science Fiction Twenty-Sixth Annual Collection, or Best Horror of the Year 1, edited by Ellen Datlow, and access to a scanner, please let me know. I might need to beg you to scan and email me a few pages which I’ll need to pass on for verification of some of my claims (honorable mentions for a number of stories, and the reprint of “Lester Young and the Jupiter’s Moons’ Blues” in the Dozois anthology).

One thought on “When ATMs Attack, or, How Things are Going in Depok/Jakarta

  1. The system is basically telling you to put up and shut up. :)

    I had s similar problem last year with our school’s administrators. I had participated in an anthropology seminar sponsored by the university, and they solicited a write-up of the presentation for their journal. When it came time for annual review, the committee did not recognize the article as an “economics” paper because it was published in an anthropology journal (even though it concerned the economic aspects of Korea-US FTA). I don’t think the committee bothered to read the article or even glance at the abstract. (Remember the cardinal rule about Korean academics – form over content! I had a paper rejected from a journal because it used five-year old data – even though it was the latest data available).

    Before the university review was computerized, there used to be a sub-section where you could report any works of fiction and poetry. I remember a professor from natural sciences who submitted a piece of poetry for review consideration. The committee accepted the poetry as work done during the year (and gave points accordingly), but did not count it toward his professional journal requirement (since it had nothing to do with his research).

    Whether your fiction is counted toward your professional research requirement depends on 1) how effectively your department head can make the case that fiction can be a part of the “research area” of your major; and 2) how flexible the committee is. (Having your department head perhaps emphasize that having an internationally published and recognized author – who publishes in English – in the faculty will be good for university rating and ranking will be incredibly helpful. I know that the President of the University and the Board of Directors are trying to raise the ranking and recognition factor of the university by using any and every cheap trick in the book; and ‘internationalization’ is a big part of that. I believe there are not that many authors publishing fiction internationally on faculty in Korea )

    Having met and worked with your department head, I think she will do a very effective job on 1), but 2) is always a problem. The committee usually goes for the most unimaginative, conservative decisions. (The more I hang around with the Korean ‘intellectuals’, th less I want to hang around with them. Give me the Simpsons, Robot Chicken and Spongebob Squarepants instead – they are usually more intellectually playful than Korean intellectuals.)

    Anyhow, I have the Dozois, and a scanner. Give me a couple of days warning if you want the scan of the whole story, though. I can just lend her the book, but since I am only going to my office irregularly once a week, I’ll probably need more notice. (There’s always a danger of the committee wanting to *keep* the book though. I once had a 10-page chapter in a book published by the WTO and the Oxford University Press. Because the book had fifty-some authors, and the book was quite expensive – the book cost fifty pounds UK as a paperback – the publisher gave each author one copy. The university wanted that copy to keep in its vault as ‘evidence’ of publication. I told them, no.)

    Welcome to the wonderful world of Korean academia. :)

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